NDSU, UND resuming football rivalry, but not every year
FARGO, N.D. (AP) — Twelve years after a bitter breakup of a century-old rivalry, North Dakota's two largest universities are meeting again on the football field.
North Dakota and North Dakota State played their first football game in 1894 and owned the longest running series in NCAA Division II athletics when it was abruptly halted in 2003. The game scheduled Saturday afternoon in the Fargodome is the 111th meeting and the first Division I encounter between the programs.
UND owns a 62-43-2 advantage in the series and won the last game 28-21 in overtime. The four-time defending Football Championship Subdivision champion Bison are considered heavy favorites this time.
Here's a closer look at the rivalry:
The rivalry was grounded over differing opinions about moving from Division II to Division I. NDSU made the call to go D-I in 2003. UND stayed put.
With NDSU desperate to schedule games in its five-year transition, UND felt it had nothing to gain by playing the Bison and took them off their schedule. Later, when UND decided to move up, it was the Bison returning the snub by refusing to renew the series.
UND administrators eventually gave up on a possible home-and-home arrangement and agreed to play in Fargo in 2015 and 2019. The future of the game remains unclear. The teams play in separate conferences, with NDSU in the Missouri Valley and UND in the Big Sky.
"Both teams have kind of taken their ball and gone home with it," said Mike Mannausau, a former UND player and coach who now heads the UND booster group. "It's kind of time to bury that."
DREAM COME TRUE
Players from both sides had little to draw from when asked about their feelings toward the game. They were in grade school the last time the teams played.
"It's not that we don't know what it's about," said UND linebacker Will Ratelle, "but it doesn't feel much different to us."
The rivalry has caused some families to switch their allegiances. UND wide receiver Josh Seibel said his parents and grandparents went to NDSU like "almost everyone in my family." Seibel is from Bismarck, North Dakota. NDSU tight end Jeff Illies has an uncle who played basketball at UND and other UND fans on his mom's side. Illies is from Lidgerwood, North Dakota.
NDSU offensive tackle Landon Lechler, who grew up in the far western North Dakota town of Beach, was one of the few players who described the event with some sentiment.
"It's a dream come true," Lechler said. "It will be good for the state of North Dakota and everyone associated with it to kind have fun with it and roll with it as they choose."
BOTH SIDES NOW
NDSU quarterbacks coach Randy Hedberg, who grew up in Parshall, North Dakota, participated in the rivalry three times as a coach — for UND. He doesn't think the rivlary has lost any luster after a 12-year hiatus.
"I think both fan bases are jacked to play," said Hedberg, an assistant at UND from 1996-98. "Being a native North Dakotan, it has always been a great attraction. It creates a lot of fun in the state. I think it's an important game for both teams."
Hedberg said the last time he was part of a UND-NDSU game inside the Fargodome, it was so loud that one of his assistants on the sidelines could not hear him through his headphones when Hedberg tried to relay plays from the press box.
NO MORE NICKEL
The winner of the game had previously been awarded the Nickel Trophy, a 75-pound coin that features a Bison logo on one side and an Indian head logo on the other. UND has since retired its Fighting Sioux nickname that was deemed hostile and abusive by the NCAA. The trophy was retired.
Oddly enough, UND has a 4-1 edge inside the Fargodome, where the Bison have been dominant since moving up to Division I. NDSU has an FCS-best 24-game home winning streak.
"Well, if our players and our coaches haven't heard 18,000 people booing at you, I think we're going to get that," said UND head coach Bubba Schweigert, a native of Zeeland, North Dakota. "It's going to be an electric atmosphere."
WIN ONE FOR AG
NDSU senior defensive lineman Brian Schaetz, who hails from Wisconsin, said he heard plenty this week from his fellow students and professors in the school's ag department. Schaetz is majoring in agricultural economics with a minor in crop and weed sciences.
"A lot of students are telling me that we have got to win this game. All my teachers are a little excited," Schaetz said. "Obviously ag is a big thing here ... up there, I don't know if they know what agriculture is."