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Other Views: Big game on again, or is it?

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What in the minds of some North Dakotans is the game of games, the long-on-hold football rivalry between North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota is on again.

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Well, sort of.

The schools’ athletic departments have found a 2015 date for revival of the contest. The teams will play at the Fargodome. But then fans will have to wait three full seasons for the Bison and UND to play again, in the 2019 season, when they will play again at the dome. What, no Grand Forks game?

That might not be a big deal for unreconstructed advocates of the up-and-down-the-river rivalry, but the grumbling downriver is audible. And given a decade without the game, and the three-year gap between the revival games it might be difficult to keep interest as intense as anticipated. Oh, and for good measure, the iconic Nickel Trophy, which went to the winner of the game, will not play a part in the 2015 or 2019 renewal games. UND has the trophy, having won it in 2003, the last time the schools played.

All that being said, the value of the game has little to do with prowess on the football field. It’s more about an event that can resonate with a huge number of North Dakotans, whether or not they have specific loyalties to the schools. The reach of NDSU and UND goes far beyond football. Both schools have produced tens of thousands of graduates. Most of them have deep feelings for their alma mater that are unrelated to sports. The game is more symbol or touchstone than exclusively a sports contest. In that context, renewal of the rivalry is a big deal for a lot of North Dakotans.

Nonetheless, the stutter start of the new game schedule could be problematic. The teams will play next year, and then fans will wait until 2019 for another game. Most of the players who face each other for the first game will be long gone for the second game. The gap is ready made to diminish the broader meaning of the revival.

It’s a scheduling challenge, but the schools should make playing each other every season a priority. And while it will be great to see the 2015 game in the Fargodome, there has to be a way to play in Grand Forks.

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead’s Editorial Board formed this opinion.

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