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North Dakota Gets Nickname Reprieve

November 13, 2006

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) _ A district judge has granted a preliminary injunction to stop the NCAA from banning the University of North Dakota from hosting a postseason game because of its ``Fighting Sioux″ nickname, state Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said.

The decision came hours before the school learned it will host a playoff football game in less than a week.

UND Athletic Director Tom Buning said Sunday that judge Lawrence Jahnke sent an e-mail late Saturday that stated his decision and said a formal ruling was coming. Buning said he did not expect the formal order to be released until Monday.

Jahnke did not immediately return a telephone call Sunday seeking comment.

UND is among a handful of schools with American Indian nicknames and logos that the NCAA considers hostile and abusive. Those schools are barred from holding postseason tournaments, or from using their nicknames during road playoff games.

Stenehjem, in asking for the injunction, said the ban might cost UND (9-1, 7-1 North Central Conference) home field advantage in this year’s NCAA Division II football playoffs.

Fargo attorney Wick Corwin, representing the NCAA, also did not immediately return a telephone call Sunday.

The NCAA, which designed its policy to avoid a confrontation in court, issued a written statement saying it still expected to prevail.

``We are disappointed in the preliminary ruling but will continue to defend the NCAA’s right and responsibility to enact guidelines in the best interest of our member schools, our student-athletes and our fans,″ the statement said.

On Sunday the NCAA said Newberry College has agreed to change its nickname from Indians to avoid sanctions.

Stenehjem asked Jahnke during a court hearing Thursday to stop the NCAA from banning the nickname until a full hearing on the case is held.

North Dakota officials sued the NCAA last month, saying the ban is a breach of contract and violates antitrust laws. The NCAA argued that an exemption for UND would deprive the association of authority over its own championships.

Jahnke on Thursday set a tentative trial date in the nickname dispute for April 24. The attorney general’s office is handling the case for UND, which is paying for it with private contributions.