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OUR OPINION: UND-NDSU: Game on!

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opinion Grand Forks, 58203
Grand Forks North Dakota 375 2nd Ave. N. 58203

Rumors about UND and North Dakota State University renewing their football rivalry started circulating Thursday evening.

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By Friday at noon, there were 55 pages of commentary on the Bisonville.com forum site, while the SiouxSports.com thread had exploded to 103 pages.

And the comments! Curse words, obscene cartoons and angry vows to hang up on the next alumnus calling for a donation, coupled with expressions of delight and excitement at the prospect of the reborn rivalry’s lasting another 120 years.

Start anywhere at random in either forum’s threads, and you’re sure to soon read opinions at those extremes and everywhere in between. Some of each team’s fans are outraged, some are overjoyed — and all are involved, commenting on and arguing about this development with an intensity seldom seen before.

That’s exactly what us boosters of renewing the rivalry have predicted all along. Heartiest congratulations to the leaders of both schools, for sticking with it and striking a deal that’s so obviously in the best interests of the state.

This agreement isn’t about 2015 or 2019, the agreed-upon dates of the UND-NDSU matchups. This agreement is about 2030, 2040 and beyond — when both universities will have hit their strides, both likely will be playing at their leagues’ highest levels, and the games once again will be the most-watched, most-talked-about sporting events in the state.

It’s good for North Dakota to have two first-rate research universities, institutions that help power the state and drive its prosperity and growth. It’s good for those schools and their students to respect each other as academic peers and athletic rivals.

And it’s not just good but great fun to be part of one of the most-historic and most-intense rivalries in America. Think of West Point or the Naval Academy, and the Army-Navy game very quickly comes to mind. Signature games strengthen the “brands” of both institutions and inspire both loyalty and generosity among alumni.

It’ll be good for UND. It’ll be good for NDSU.

And that means it’ll be good for North Dakota.

In fact, the benefits are so clear that UND was right to agree to NDSU’s somewhat one-sided terms this time around. Those terms include playing both the 2015 and 2019 games in Fargo, rather than a “home and home” series as UND had hoped.

Face it: NDSU had the upper hand in these negotiations, thanks to the football team’s “threepeat” as FCS national champions. Given that powerhouse history, the Bison likely will be the favorites in at least 2015, as most UND fans grudgingly will admit.

But UND and NDSU are closely matched rivals in all the other Division I sports they share. That’s sure to develop in football, too; and when it does, the renewed rivalry will be set for the long haul.

Again, this is a development for the decades and likely will be looked back on as a significant event in the lifetime of the state.

How appropriate that in this, North Dakota’s 125th birthday year, North Dakota’s two oldest universities have renewed a contest whose history stretches almost all the way back to statehood.

It’s a good time to be a North Dakotan and a good time to live in the Red River Valley. And it’s a great time to be a UND or NDSU fan.

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