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Jeff Kolpack, Published January 14 2011

Kolpack: Aren't there bigger things to be worrying about?

The state of North Dakota must really be kicking tail. We have oil coming out of our ears, enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world and a budget surplus that has Minnesotans foaming at the mouth.

We might as well become our own country. We should nickname North Dakota the “What, Me Worry?” state and make Alfred E. Neuman the official state mascot, because there doesn’t appear to be any legislative issues of consequence on the docket.

First, three proposed legislative bills would address the University of North Dakota from retiring its logo and would allow the North Dakota attorney general to file an antitrust claim against the NCAA.

It’s probably a noble gesture by the lawmakers in another attempt to keep the issue breathing, but – and here’s a news flash – the final buzzer has already sounded. This logo train left the station on Nov. 30 when the NCAA deadline for the school to gain approval from the tribes via a settlement with UND expired. The Board of Higher Education beat the NCAA to the punch on that deadline anyway last spring, approving a motion to begin the retirement process immediately.

Then there is the proposed bill that would prohibit alcohol in and around all college athletic venues in the state. In other words, don’t have a Miller Lite with that brat in a controlled tailgating section outside the Fargodome on a nice fall afternoon.

There comes a point where legislating morality goes too far. Is there some sort of toxic gas in Bismarck that is not making people think clearly?

Tailgating at NDSU and UND has become an event for thousands of people, and there have not been any reports of mixed martial arts fights in parking lots. If this is about trying to prevent college kids under the age of 21 from being around alcohol, then we might as well construct a

10-foot iron fence around the campus, let students in on the first day of the semester, and don’t let them leave until the last day of finals.

I’m not an advocate of political intervention into athletic programs, but if the Legislature truly feels compelled that it has a place in athletics, it should look at something more realistic. Bills to address the Sioux logo and tailgating at football games are a waste of time.

The return of the battle for the Nickel Trophy, now there’s something that’s doable. It’s been sitting idle somewhere in Grand Forks since 2003.

It goes to the winner of the NDSU vs. UND football game, of course, and the series parted ways when NDSU went Division I in 2004. It took UND a few years to follow suit, but now both schools are in the same division, where they should have been all along.

Rep. Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks, introduced a bill in 2009 calling for the schools to play football against each other, but it got about as far as a fourth-down run that was stuffed at the line of scrimmage.

This discussion is getting really old. So any such future bill would have to take a cautious approach, meaning it shouldn’t be written as if they have to play each other next year. Football scheduling is done in four- to five-year blocks.

Give each school five years to sort out its scheduling mix and perhaps start gradually – make them play every other year as the NDSU athletic director proposed two years ago. Start somewhere. Start in 2016. Make it a priority.

Instead of trying to deal with an issue that is already dead in the Sioux logo or trying to impose prohibition at stadium parking lots, legislators would best use their time looking into something that is alive and kicking: Division I football. The schools have resumed playing, or will play each other in the future, in all other sports, including basketball.

The men’s basketball game in December at the Fargodome was fine and dandy. But the NDSU-UND rivalry will not truly resume until the Nickel is dusted off. The trophy will have to be changed since the Sioux will be no longer, but students are creative.

If we let them go outside the iron fence, they’ll figure it out.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be heard on the Saturday Morning Sports Show, 9-11 a.m. on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia