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Ryan Bakken / Forum News Service, Published September 22 2013

Bakken: Face it, NDSU doesn't need UND

Grand Forks - It takes two to tango.

Or waltz.

Or grind.

However, the harsh reality is that North Dakota State doesn’t need an in-state football dance partner. So, despite the recent pleas of celebrities, powerbrokers and rank-and-file North Dakotans alike, don’t expect the University of North Dakota to land on Bison football’s dance card any time soon.

Last week in Grand Forks, former football coach and current ESPN analyst Lou Holtz called for legislative intervention to force the two universities to meet on the (please excuse the ensuing jargon, old habits die hard) gridiron. Earlier this month, Dave St. Peter, a UND alumnus and the president of the Minnesota Twins, made a similar pitch.

I have shared that opinion to force a game for a long time. But my mind recently has changed, because the times have changed.

Some background first:

When NDSU took the leap to NCAA Division I in 2004, it wanted UND to come along. But UND balked. And UND, as a Division II team, refused NDSU offers to continue the football rivalry because the Bison were able to offer more scholarships and thus have an advantage.

Then, when UND eventually followed NDSU’s upward move to D-I, NDSU athletics officials declined to add their neighbor to their schedule. The decision had the aroma of sour grapes, of payback for UND’s schedule shunning earlier.

However, now NDSU has a legitimate reason for keeping UND off its schedule: It has bigger fish to fry. After back-to-back FCS national championships and a string of upsets of established FBS teams Minnesota (twice), Colorado State, Kansas and Kansas State, NDSU doesn’t need UND.

For those of you who are not convinced, answer this: If NDSU adds Division I hockey as a sport, should UND feel obligated to add the Bison to their schedule?

Of course not. Nor should NDSU be forced into a schedule not in its own interests.

However, like many state residents, I would enjoy seeing the state’s two major universities meet in football again after a 10-year absence. It’s great theater, on and off the field.

Besides, it would be an opportune time for NDSU to narrow the gap on UND’s 62-45-3 record in the football series.

With NDSU gone and the Minnesota Gophers in another hockey league, UND fans will go years between boo-worthy visitors.

Bakken writes for the Grand Forks Herald