New NDSU rivalry kicks off at border

Jeremy Fugleberg

Jeremy Fugleberg

It’s on, and there’s a trophy.

A shelterbelt on the windswept South and North Dakota border played host to the forging of a new NCAA Division I-AA football rivalry April 21.

Students, athletes, and administration from SDSU and North Dakota State University met just yards away from a historic quartzite border marker to announce the beginning of a cross-border sports feud between the two schools.

The border monument will serve as a model for the “Dakota Marker,” the new traveling trophy for NDSU-SDSU football games.

The event was just ending when SDSU President Peggy Gordon Miller struck the first blow for the Jackrabbits.

With the help of students, Miller stole the blanket-sized, NDSU flag, left everyone in a cloud of dust, and headed for Brookings.

Earlier, Miller said the games would be “the rivalry of the territory” and told students she was proud of their efforts.

“You’re taking a first step-you’re being the pioneers that your ancestors were,” she said. “You have the history of it and you know what great success comes from courage and determination and quality.”

Miller said she wants to help with the cost of the trophy.

“I’m going to help them get the money so that we have that monument,” she said.

SDSU Student Association President Amanda Mattingly said the school administration was initially apprehensive, but soon supported the rivalry announcement.

“Anything we want to do student-wise they back us 100 percent,” she said. “We couldn’t ask for a better administration.”

The SDSU SA and an NDSU honor society will pay for the replica’s creation. They haven’t yet decided who will make the trophy, and the 500 lb. weight of a real marker isn’t helping.

“We’re working with some different materials, different ways to do it in order to keep it both economically feasible as well as feasible for even a football player to hoist up in the air,” said Adam Jones, president of the NDSU Blue Key Honor Society, which researched the monument.

Fred Oien, SDSU athletic director, said the rivalry announcement and plans for the marker were perfect.

“I think absolutely the students hit this one on the head,” he said. “It’s got appropriateness, it represents the history of our two states (and) it marks borders, which is part of a rivalry. They couldn’t have picked a better symbol.”

Surveyor Charles Bates was hired in 1891 to mark the border between the two states, according to published reports.

Sioux Falls-quarried quartzite blocks were carved into 7 foot columns, and buried in the ground. Each column was engraved with “N.D.” on its north side and “S.D.” on its south side.

SDSU athletics announced its move to Division I in all sports except football in 2003. SDSU and NDSU competed in the Division II North Central Conference, and were founding members of the Division 1-AA Great West Football Conference this February.

The Bison and the Jackrabbits have played football against each other 90 times since 1903, and NDSU is up 49-36-5. Their next meeting will be in Brookings Oct. 9.

The move to Division I squelched the big Division II rivalries of both schools.

Games between SDSU and the University of South Dakota have included rowdy fans throwing animal carcasses. The rivalry between NDSU and the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux was just as heated. Both UND and USD are staying in Division II.

But the freshness of the SDSU-NDSU rivalry didn’t stop Miller from exulting over the theft of the Bison banner.

“I still have it,” she confided April 22.

What is she going to do with it?

“Hmmm, well, we’ll see,” she said with a grin.