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Published January 12 2013

Forum editorial: Old rivalry should be restored

Every time the possibility of restoring the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University football rivalry comes up, NDSU athletic officials roll out the wet blanket. What’s with that?

Last week the possibility (however remote at this point) that an opening on NDSU’s 2013 schedule could be filled by UND elicited a less-than-warm response from Bison Athletic Director Gene Taylor. What else is new? Taylor routinely twists himself into a rhetorical pretzel to explain why NDSU has not even tried to get UND on the Bison schedule.

Just a few miles to the north along the Red River, UND’s AD said without equivocation: “We’d certainly entertain it.” Brian Faison has the right attitude, even if it might be a tad self-serving. But self-serving or not, a UND-NDSU football revival should be front and center for both schools. It’s more than a game.

NDSU has been curiously reluctant to embrace a contest that arguably was the biggest collegiate athletic event in the state during the many years the teams clashed. The Bison dropped UND for good reasons during the transition from Division II to Division I, while UND dilly-dallied with its transition. But now both teams play in the same division, and while UND has always been open to getting NDSU back on the schedule, the Bison athletic department has become the dilly-dallier.

NDSU, riding a well-earned reputation as a team of national prominence, might think playing UND is beneath the Bison. After all, an NDSU win would be expected; a loss would be an embarrassment because, frankly, UND does not play at NDSU’s level. For UND, there is little at stake. If UND loses, well, it would be against a two-time national champion; if UND wins, it’s a big deal for UND.

All true. And there are monetary considerations and benefits that NDSU trots out regarding playing teams other than UND. Fair enough.

But Taylor and company don’t seem to understand that it’s more than the game. The rivalry is part of the history and culture of North Dakota sports. Only that game can stir fans and non-fans to such intensity. Only that game brings North Dakotans together in a competitive spirit that animates both schools and their alumni. It’s not necessarily about which team wins. It’s about the aura and tradition of the game and all it represents.

Fans of both schools have been content to know the game was “on hold” during the divisional transitions. But it appears NDSU is content to let the rivalry die. That is not acceptable.

No one buys the fiction that NDSU can’t find a way to schedule UND. The rotation of one year in Fargo and the next in Grand Forks can work as it did in the past. The cliché is true: Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Problem is there apparently is no will at NDSU. In fact, Taylor and is staff seem to be doing everything they can to block revival of a great rivalry.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.