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President Charles Kupchella’ Open Letter to the NCAA

Tuesday, August 16, 2005  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

University of North Dakota President Charles Kupchella was my guest on the radio today. I will try and get a transcript of the conversation up later, but if you haven’t done so already, be sure to read his “Open Letter to the NCAA.” It is a masterpiece.

You can e-mail President Kupchella at

Here is the transcript of the interview:

HH: President Kupchella, welcome to the Hugh Hewitt Show.

CK: Well thanks, Hugh. I’m please to be on.

HH: Tell me a little bit about the University of North Dakota first, how big it is, what your mascot is, and how you came to be its president, and how long you’ve been there.

CK: Well, the University of North Dakota is a medium-sized university, a complete one. We have medicine, law, engineering, hundreds of degree programs, fifty masters programs, more than twenty doctoral programs. I’ve been president since 1999, so this is my seventh year. UND is a wonderful place. We have four hundred American-Indian students, probably six hundred international students, students from all fifty states, probably seventy foreign countries.

HH: How many undergraduates, President Kupchella?

CK: Undergraduates would be about eleven thousand.

HH: And your mascot is?

CK: We don’t have a mascot. We have a nickname…

HH: Which is?

CK: It’s called the Fighting Sioux.

HH: The Fighting Sioux.

CK: And we do have a logo that’s just a great piece of art. It was designed by Ben Brien, an American-Indian artist, a very respected one here in North Dakota, and I think beyond. His sculptures and work appear all over the state, and he did a masterpiece for us in this logo.

HH: Now explain to our audience what the National Collegiate Athletic Association ruled on August the 5th.

CK: Well, they basically said, I think, that we were among a group of schools, eighteen I think total, that were being abusive and hostile to American-Indians somehow, and without ever giving any definition to that. And presumably, it’s simply because use the nickname Fighting Sioux. Apparently, everything is derived from that. No matter how much respect we give to that, apparently this wasn’t enough for them. So what they ruled is those in this group of eighteen will not be permitted to host an NCAA-sponsored championship sporting event, and if we do host one before after February 6th, I think it is, then they want us to cover up all the symbols, all of the indications that this is in fact our name, even though they’re not really ruling that we have to change the name to something else.

HH: Now did you have forewarning that such a process was underway?

CK: Well, we knew that they were doing…they had asked us to do a self-study, which we did. And like others we’ve done before, we went through that. And of course on our campus, we have gone through a very extensive process of studying this issue, making sure we understood just what percentages of what groups were in favor of this, which ones didn’t care. We actually did a scientific study. So mostly what we did in response to their request, was tell them about what we’ve done in the last few years, and if there were any changes, or any events that happened since that study, and we sent that report in about two months ago. I had no idea though, that there would be a group that…you know, what they’re asking us to do here is basically, since we happen to have a championship event scheduled already, probably hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs, maybe millions, to change…to somehow obliterate or cover up this logo, and the reference to Fighting Sioux, because some of those things are actually built in. They’re actually part of the architecture of some of our buildings. And by the way, we compete at a very high level nationally. We have won seven national titles in hockey since I’ve been president. I think we’ve played for seven national titles in three different sports. So we’re a significant player in NCAA.

HH: Now President Kupchella, I’m a law professor in addition to doing this over at Chapman University down in Orange County, California. And I am stunned that an entity that is close to the state would attempt to dicate speech without consultation and due process, and you’ve got contract issues. How have your alumni and students reacted to your rather bold letter, telling them, in essence, you better reconsider, or we’ll see you in court?

CK: Well, I’ve had, I suppose, a hundred and fifty e-mails. I’m actually on the road, and have been for the last couple of days, and did not bring my computer with me. But before I left, I think I’ve already received about a hundred and twenty, and my office said there have been another several dozen that have come in since. I know our alumni affairs, our alumni association has received hundreds of responses, nearly all of them positive. I didn’t…I think of all my hundred and twenty, I think one was negative. And you know what? It’s people not so…and many of them were not associated with UND as alumni. In my case, they were people from all over the world, who…this has resonated with them as a just kind of a final straw in political correctness run amok. And where the heck does this go next?

HH: Yup.

CK: That was the kind of response I’ve been getting from all over the world.

HH: You know, I would think you would have thousands, but it is not easy to find your e-mail address on the website. In fact, I couldn’t find it. I don’t know if you want to give it out, but I think you would have thousands…

CK: Well, it is on the web. It is, and there’s a like there to communicate with the president. And it gives my e-mail address right there on the website.

HH: Oh,…


HH: Now my question is, will you sue the NCAA if they persist in breaching their contract with you?

CK: Well, you know, I’ve long ago learned not to really tip your hand an, d talk about hypothetical situations. We’re going to play it by the book here, see what they say in response to my letter. We will file an appeal, once we know what it is that we’re going to be basing this appeal on. I mean, the main thing I’ve tried to communicate in this letter, is that we don’t get it. I don’t understand what they used as a standard, so it’s pretty hard to know how to appeal, since you don’t know what it is they used to decide. So once we get that result, then of course, we’ll decide, and there’s several phases that one would be…because the deadline is imminent, of course. We’ll have to do something before this championship game, or do nothing at all and see what they do.

HH: Have you consulted with your colleagues, for example, the president of Florida State University, also under the gun from the NCAA?

CK: I haven’t had a chance, really, to talk with any of them yet, but our folks have talked to their folks. I did send them a copy of my letter, and we will be talking with them. I just haven’t had an opportunity to do that just yet.

HH: Well, President Kupchella, you have a friend here, and I’m sure many other places across the United States that favor free speech and the right to conduct your own affairs, free of meddling educrats. So, we look forward to having you back as this progresses. Good luck up there with the Fighting Sioux.

End of interview.

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