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Conference change could end Badger/Sioux relationship

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There is no doubt that the Wisconsin men's hockey teams biggest rival is the University of Minnesota. A close runner up is the University of North Dakota. Year in, year out Wisconsin and North Dakota play each other tight and it shows in the results over the past 10 seasons (Wisconsin has the slight upper hand 17-15-2).

This outstanding rivalry could soon be coming to an end. Wisconsin has two more seasons left in the WCHA before they combine with Minnesota, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Ohio State to form the new Big Ten Hockey Conference in the fall of 2013. When that happens the Badgers will be leaving rivals like North Dakota, Denver, and Colorado College behind.

An interesting tidbit has surfaced recently in an article written by the Wisconsin State Journal's Andy Baggot. In the article Baggot notes that according to UW deputy athletic director Sean Frazier, who oversees men's hockey, Wisconsin won't be able to schedule North Dakota in non-conference games when the Badgers move out of the WCHA and to the Big Ten conference because of the University's stance on on Native American logo's and names.

More on the future of Wisconsin and North Dakota after the jump.

Baggot quotes Frazier as saying,

 "We'd love to continue our relationship with North Dakota," Frazier said, "but North Dakota has to figure (its nickname issue) out from an NCAA perspective."

Currently the University of Wisconsin goes specifically off the NCAA's "list." Basically the NCAA has a list of schools that are on double secret probation (Alcorn State, Arkansas State, and North Dakota) who are subject to the NCAA's policy that prohibits the use of hostile and abusive Native American mascots, names, and imagery at NCAA championships.

Wisconsin's current policy allows them to play North Dakota because of the part of it's policy that states:

The UW-Madison Athletic Department will not schedule competitions against, or attend tournaments hosted by, any school on the NCAA list, unless the school is a conference member.

But with Wisconsin no longer being in the WCHA with UND, that exception no longer exists.

This topic can be confusing and many fans have brought up some great points. One, the Wisconsin men's basketball team has played Florida State  who uses a Native American nickname and mascot in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. This is allowable for two reasons. One, Florida State is exempt from NCAA punishment because the Seminole tribe has endorsed the use of their nickname. The other part of the policy that makes non-conference games with Florida State allowable is this part:

The Athletic Department discourages participation of teams in pre-season events or tournaments during the regular season in which schools on the NCAA list are also participating, unless the schedule is controlled by outside entities (e.g., the Big Ten Conference).

Because the Big Ten and ACC are the ones who schedule the challenge games, not the individual schools, that would fit into this exception.

The real confusion starts when people remember that the Wisconsin men's basketball team played North Dakota in a non-conference game recently. But thanks to North Dakota SID Jayson Hejdu, we've been alerted to this article by Adam Mertz with the explanation on why the men's basketball team was able to play UND.

That's because the school (North Dakota) finally decided to drop a lawsuit against the NCAA in response to restrictions levied against schools with mascots deemed "hostile and abusive," and has begun the process of dropping the 80-year-old Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.

All that makes perfect sense, except Grand Forks Herald UND hockey beat writer Brad Elliott Schlossman has a few notes of his own:

Hoops (UW vs UND played on November 16th, 2010) game may have occurred after UND was taken off list, but they scheduled it before. Not to mention, they played in women's basketball in 2009.

Additionally, since that basketball game was played North Dakota has been placed back on the list because their state government passed legislature to keep the nickname.

Are there any loopholes for the Badgers to continue it's relationship with North Dakota in hockey? Many have brought up the "traditional rivals clause." Todd Milewski notes:

There was "traditional rivals" language originally so they could play Marquette (Warriors).

But looking through the current policy, there doesn't seem to be any mention such a policy which was updated in 2007. With Marquette replacing their Warrior nickname in 1994 with their current "Golden Eagles" moniker, Wisconsin may have not felt the need to have language in reference to traditional rivals in their current policy.

The other possible loophole that people have brought up is the possibility of a WCHA/Big Ten scheduling agreement. Some people think that this part of the policy, which allows for exemptions in cases like the ACC/Big Ten challenge in basketball could work for a UW/UND exemption if there was a WCHA/Big Ten scheduling agreement in hockey:

The Athletic Department discourages participation of teams in pre-season events or tournaments during the regular season in which schools on the NCAA list are also participating, unless the schedule is controlled by outside entities (e.g., the Big Ten Conference).

Would that count? I really have no clue but it might be the only possible way at this point that Wisconsin and North Dakota could continue playing each other unless North Dakota stops using the Fighting Sioux nickname.

In my opinion the Wisconsin athletic department needs to find whatever loophole it can to continue it's relationship with North Dakota. The Fighting Sioux are an powerhouse program that Wisconsin needs to keep on it's schedule by any means necessary. 

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