GRAND FORKS — With a vote for the University of North Dakota’s new nickname drawing closer and the list of possibilities available to the public, precautions are being taken to protect potential names online.
The consulting company working with the school, PadillaCRT, purchased 265 website domain names so they would be available to UND.
Padilla branding expert Kelly O’Keefe said the names they bought were based on whether they were a viable choice that encompassed some of the qualities UND’s nickname committee has established, such as embodying the region and being fierce.
“We made case-by-case decisions based on our own judgment on whether we thought they should obtain a name to hold it for future availability or not,” O’Keefe said. “That doesn’t mean we thought all those names were great names. That’s not our decision to make.”
O’Keefe said this practice is normal and Padilla staff went through each name individually. Some they purchased include gofightingflickertails.com, goplainers.com and unddefenders.com. A full list can be found here.
“It’s a caution in the branding business,” he said.
Padilla purchased the domains for $2,197 through GoDaddy.com at a special bulk rate of $8.29 each. This cost was included in an agreement with UND.
All of them begin with “go” or “UND” and O’Keefe said this is because it’s a common way to use athletic team websites.
O’Keefe said most weight was put on qualities the committee and an earlier nickname task force said they wanted after gathering public input for about four months.
“For instance, the name needs to feel fierce, and ‘Howlers’ felt more fierce than ‘Hounds,'” he said.
The names purchased by Padilla will remain off the market for one year, O’Keefe said, while the university narrows down its options and holds a public vote.
UND produced a list of nearly 30 website domains already owned by UND, its Athletics Department, and School of Medicine and Health Sciences. The names are managed and renewed by the North Dakota University System.
UND spokesman Peter Johnson said the university owns more domains, but there is no complete list available. State statute does not require the school to compile one.
“It’s kind of like having subscriptions to multiple publications,” he said. “You might not have an actual list, but you get notices and you renew them. But it turned out the system office had a list, so that’s what we’re providing.”
UND Vice Provost and Chief Strategy Officer Josh Riedy said the list is short because they encourage entities within the school to use offshoots of the school’s und.edu domain it already owns.
Johnson said the university began buying domains in the early days of the Internet’s popularity. Some aren’t active but are still owned by UND, such as fightingsiouxclub.org, undfanrewards.com and davehakstol.com, named after UND’s head hockey coach.
Owning the name
Some of the domains Padilla considered purchasing already were held by other entities, but Johnson said it was too early in the process to speculate whether UND was financially ready to pursue obtaining a domain name held by someone else.
For example, “Big Green” was one of the names the committee moved forward, and biggreen.com redirects to a page for the fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon that is under construction.
O’Keefe said names could be altered to acquire a domain by adding “UND” or other words. Legal action is also a possibility that would be easier for the university if they pursued something with the phrase “UND” in it, O’Keefe said.
Riedy said once the Fighting Sioux name was retired, it cost about $1,500 to purchase undsports.com from a “random individual” who had purchased it and had been squatting on it.
O’Keefe also had heard about people purchasing domains with the intent of giving them to UND, something Johnson said Sean Johnson did frequently during his time as an employee for the Athletics Department until 2012.
“We think there are a certain percentage of names that will be donated,” O’Keefe said.
This isn’t quite the case with flickertails.com, Riedy said, which redirects to undsports.com. While it was originally assumed the university owned the name, Reidy said whoever owns it purchased it in August 2014 and remains anonymous.
“To the best of my knowledge, I don’t know of anybody at the University of North Dakota who purchased that name,” he said.
The school has an 11-person committee of students, university employees and alumni that is in the process of narrowing down a list of thousands of nickname ideas suggested by the public throughout the month of April. Those names were separated into one list of potential names and another list of names that weren’t appropriate or legally available, though O’Keefe noted a time crunch led to some human error.
UND’s former Fighting Sioux monicker was controversially retired in late 2012 after the NCAA threatened sanctions.
The nickname committee will meet at 6 p.m. Monday in UND’s Twamley Hall when they will go through most if not all of the remaining names on the consideration list and look at any possibilities on the non-consideration list.
At that time, O’Keefe said a conversation would most likely be had about purchasing domain names for all the suggestions the committee moves forward. At their last meeting, the committee went through 500 names and moved 38 forward for continued evaluation.