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Schnepf: What’s going on at North Dakota State?

FARGO -- What in the wide, wide world of sports is going on at North Dakota State University? The school known for not only surviving, but excelling, during its move to Division I, appears to be in a state of flux right now. Just take a look at t...

FARGO - What in the wide, wide world of sports is going on at North Dakota State University?
The school known for not only surviving, but excelling, during its move to Division I, appears to be in a state of flux right now. Just take a look at the construction clutter at the old Bison Sports Arena.
And take a look at all the recent turnover. NDSU is looking for an athletic director and will soon be starting a search for a women’s A.D. It has first-year head coaches in its three major sports of football, and men’s and women’s basketball.
To add to the chaos, NDSU announced Friday that it will play rival North Dakota in a football game for the first time in more than a decade. The way numerous Bison boosters are moaning over reviving a rivalry that ran from 1894 to 2003, it’s almost as if they are the ones asking: “What in the wide, wide world of sports is going on here?”
“It is odd for everything to happen all at once like this,” said Jeremy Jorgenson, NDSU’s director of sales and broadcasting, who helped put the final touches on the two-game contract that has UND coming to the Fargodome in 2015 and 2019.
“Yeah, it does seem hectic and it just seems like a lot for us right now. But sometimes that’s not a bad thing for everything to happen at once, either.”
And despite the grumblings, it’s probably not a bad thing this football rivalry gets going again. The argument that NDSU has nothing to gain from playing this game really doesn’t carry a lot of weight. After all, it was Bison fans who were bewildered over the same reasoning Minnesota made for not wanting to schedule NDSU.
“From our standpoint, we didn’t feel any pressure to schedule this game,” Jorgenson said.
If there was any pressure, it was not to schedule it. But having UND play in the Fargodome has got to be more entertaining than watching Incarnate Word.
Meanwhile, 75 miles north in Grand Forks, there seemed to be pressure to schedule this game once and for all. It reached a point that UND Athletic Director Brian Faison had to give up on the idea of hosting a game.
Funny how things come full circle. It was back in 2004 when UND that felt it didn’t pay to play NDSU. The reasoning was legitimate: UND was still at the Division II level while NDSU was beginning its Division I era.
So after officials from both schools haggled for the last four years, the state finally has its rivalry back. Game 111 of this rivalry will be on Sept. 19, 2015. Game 112 will be on Sept. 7, 2019.
That will give NDSU and UND fans 1,449 days to cool down. Not quite like the good old days when it was an annual event - providing fans plenty to talk about for the next 364 days.
Yes, the rivalry is back, but it won’t be the same.
A whole generation of current Bison and UND players have no idea of the intensity generated during the week of that game. Word is one Bison player had to ask a reporter Friday why all the TV stations were at the Fargodome for the news conference to announce this historic revival.
And when Jorgenson, interim athletic director Prakash Mathew and Bison head football coach Chris Klieman sat before the media, it wasn’t like they were lighting off fireworks celebrating the announcement.
Klieman was straight and to the point saying: “This will be good for the state of North Dakota. … But right now, I’m more focused on our next opponent, Iowa State.”
Times have certainly changed when a UND-NDSU football rivalry can’t generate more excitement than that. What in the wide, wide world of sports is going on here?

Schnepf is the sports editor for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum News Service.

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