Nelson: UND-NDSU rivalry football game looks bleak
GRAND FORKS — In 1966, I was told I could go to the University of North Dakota-North Dakota State football game at Memorial Stadium if I received an A on my weekly piano lesson.
I practiced hard, received an A and went to the game. It was the only week in my life that I took piano seriously.
NDSU was ranked No. 1 in the world of small college football before that game; UND came in at No. 2. On a late field goal, NDSU won 18-15. And, if I remember correctly, I had a great vantage point from my lower bleacher seat on the 10-yard line since all the scoring was done in the south end zone.
It didn’t take long for a young kid to understand the importance of UND-NDSU football, the game’s tradition and its importance to the state.Well, so much for tradition and the game’s value to the state, based on recent attempts to restart the rivalry — unquestionably the state’s top sporting event.Based on e-mails between UND athletic director Brian Faison and NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor, there appears to be little — if any — hope that that rivals (yes, they still are rivals no matter what anyone says) will resume playing football any time soon.Do I care?Not as much as I used to.Do I think the game will resume in the next few years, if at all?Highly doubtful.In a nutshell, here is where the game stands:Both UND and NDSU have an open date to play on Sept. 15, 2015. Both ADs apparently are on board with playing the game in Fargo. The problem is the return game in Grand Forks.Originally, Taylor suggested a return game in Grand Forks in 2017 would work.That possibility seemed to be en route to reality until Taylor e-mailed Faison earlier this year saying that wouldn’t work.NDSU, it now appears, has no interest in any return games in Grand Forks.And I understand Taylor’s thinking. He wants NDSU to play six home games each season, due to the money the successful program now generates. The ultimate schedule for NDSU — and UND for that matter — is six home games, four league road games and a guarantee game at Division I FBS program.Somehow, the belief — at least on the NDSU side of the fence — seems to be that UND has to accept all conditions dictated by the Bison athletic department. After all, NDSU went Division I first, enjoyed immense success while UND remained Division II and — certainly not forgotten in Fargo — was jolted by its rival when the Bison needed games in their early years as a transitioning program.UND, however, has the right to demand home-and-home games with NDSU. There is no question about that. It doesn’t matter what happened in the past. Nor should UND accept any guarantee money offered by NDSU to play only in Fargo.Here are a few more things to consider:V NDSU can make a home-and-home with Weber State and Montana work, but not with UND.V Currently, NDSU has every conceivably advantage over UND in football. No question which team would be favored. No question which team would benefit in exposure, recruiting, etc.V And I don’t buy the argument that by playing UND, NDSU is risking a bad loss. Upper echelon programs never think that way.So, we’re at a stalemate. Neither side, it appears, will budge.Do I care?Not as much as I used to.Will I ever cover another UND-NDSU game?Highly doubtful.Apathy, it appears, is winning out over tradition.
Nelson is the sports editor of the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum News Service