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Comments made by Reggi Morelli, a spokesman for Ralph Engelstad on the conditions of the casino owner's $100 million gift to UND drew criticism and denial Monday. In his comments at a meeting of UND's Student Body Sunday, Ralph Engelstad Arena Inc. Vice President Reggi Morelli said Engelstad agreed to give the money to UND on three conditions, one condition was UND keep the Fighting Sioux nickname and but use the new logo. "The money Mr. Engelstad gave -- the $100 million -- on basically three conditions. The logo was one," Morelli said in the transcript. "The 'Home of the Fighting Sioux' had to stay. And No. 3, the building was supposed to stay self sufficient."
Earl Strinden, former director of the UND Alumni Foundation and Association said Morelli instead of using the word "conditions" should have used the words "strong feelings."
UND's administration is also denying the university agreed to any conditions concerning the Sioux nickname or the new logo with Engelstad.
"I'm frustrated and disheartened, but unfortunately, not surprised," said Lucy Ganje, an associate professor in the UND School of Communication. Ganje, a strong advocate of changing the name, said if the conditions are true, the commission appointed last year by UND President Charles Kupchella to research the nickname issue is a ruse. The commission was organized to research the ramifications of keeping or changing the nickname and to present its findings to Kupchella before he makes a decision about the name. If what Morelli said is true about the conditions, that would indicate that UND's administration already has made a decision to keep the name, Ganje said. "At this point, there seems to be no reason to doubt what Morelli said because he appeared as a spokesman for Ralph Engelstad Arena," she said.
Kupchella, however, disputes that UND agreed to some of the conditions Morelli mentioned at the Sunday meeting.
UND has signed lease and management contracts with Engelstad companies, but conditions to keep the nickname and any related logo are not included in the documents. The contracts allow Engelstad to own and operate the $80 million-plus arena he's building on campus for 30 years. The Las Vegas casino owner said he plans to give the arena to the university in the "foreseeable future." Kupchella said Monday, "Where Morelli gets this, I don't have a clue. There were no mention of logos and the nickname. If so, I wouldn't have signed it." Kupchella said to his knowledge, there are no other contracts with Engelstad that contain those conditions.
More On The Logo
Engelstad companies have used what is considered by some an offensive, UND-owned Indian-head logo to promote the arena, but Kupchella said each time Engelstad uses it, he abides by UND requests to stop. The logo was placed on a Web site promoting the new arena, but recently removed. The logo also was printed on shirts and sold in one local retail outlet, but later removed. "Every time it's appeared, and I have asked him (Engelstad) to please cool it, he's taken it off," said Kupchella.
The university president took part in a ceremony introducing the new logo last year, but he later withdrew any permission to use the logo until he reaches a decision on whether UND will keep its nickname.
Morelli didn't specifically mention what logo is included in the conditions, but he seemed to indicate the withdrawn logo, which was drawn by Native American artist Ben Brien.
Morelli said, "Can you imagine somebody's hat with the beautiful Sioux logo on there? We have good backup people from Scheels and Target. They're just waiting for the go-ahead to get that logo going."
Grand Forks Herald,