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Eric Peterson, Published September 22 2010

Peterson: Longtime DAC coach says breakup sad day

For Bud Etzold the pending uncertainty of the Dakota Athletic Conference is emotional for him.

The Jamestown College head football coach has spent most of his adult life in the DAC or previous forms of the conference.

“For me, it’s extremely sad,” Etzold said.

Etzold, 58, figures he has been part of the league for 32 of the last 40 years. He started his association with the conference in the 1970s as an offensive lineman for Dickinson State.

The DAC will shrink from eight to four teams after this school year. Minot State, Black Hills State and South Dakota Mines are headed to NCAA Division II. Dakota State has decided to become and NAIA independent.

Since 1923, Minot State, Jamestown College, Valley City State, Mayville State and Dickinson State have been in the same league. That bond will be fractured come next fall.

“It was personal, like playing your brother in the driveway in basketball,” Etzold said. “I’d like to go out there and beat their brains out on the field, but I still loved them. And at some point in the year, we’ll get together and have a pop. That’s what this league was to me.”

The DAC is looking at survival options – like an alliance in some form with the Frontier Conference, which has schools that span from north central Montana to LaGrande, Ore.

If that happens, the new more expanded geography – which will also create economic challenges – will change the feel of the league.

The close proximity the DAC schools have enjoyed with just Dakotas members made for strong rivalries that can’t be cultivated overnight.

“It takes time,” Etzold said. “There’s something missing when you don’t know the guys on the other sideline or you don’t know some of their players.”

Etzold will be coaching against one of his best friends Saturday. The Jimmies play at Dickinson State, led by longtime head coach Hank Biesiot, who is in his 35th season.

“Like Hank Biesiot told me: ‘You remember the locker rooms and huddles, you remember all the goofy guys you played with and the people you played against,’ ” Etzold said.

Etzold hopes that is a quality that isn’t lost in whatever form the DAC takes moving forward.

“People define the game. The game shouldn’t define the people.” Etzold said.

The last regular-season football games of this DAC season are scheduled for Nov. 7 at the Fargodome, the site of the DAC Bowl.

“Those of us that have been around a long time when we get to Fargo … it will be pretty emotional,” Etzold said.

“We always have enjoyed the fellowship. It’s been a really pretty close-knit group of people through the years. It’s tough to see that disappear.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blogs can be found at www.areavoices.com