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TOM MILLER: Taylor’s exit changes UND-NDSU football conversation

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Grand Forks Herald
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Gene Taylor’s exit as athletic director at North Dakota State marks a new era for the Bison, who have just completed an incredibly successful 2013-14 season but also saw the departures of football coach Craig Bohl (Wyoming) and men’s basketball coach Saul Phillips (Ohio).

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Taylor’s move to deputy director of athletics at the University of Iowa — the newly created No. 2 position in the department — also breathes new life into the negotiations for the renewal of the UND-NDSU football game.

The UND-Bison football rivalry has been on hold since 2003, when NDSU made the move up from Division II and UND stayed behind until joining the Division I ranks in 2007.

The recent negotiations between UND athletic director Brian Faison and Taylor certainly seemed to be at a stalemate, as was revealed by the Herald during an open records request of their email exchanges last month.

At least from UND’s perspective, part of the cause of the rivalry drought is rooted in bad blood. UND and NDSU’s Division II divorce didn’t go off without some damaged relationships.

Those bad feelings linger more than a decade later.

Now, that doesn’t mean NDSU isn’t in the power position of the rivalry resumption.

As the three-time defending national champions of the FCS, NDSU rightfully held the upper hand in the negotiation showdown.

NDSU’s demands or requests in negotiations were partially just and logical. The Bison are in enough of a good place, especially at home in a packed Fargodome, to dictate the negotiations to some extent.

However, it was also clear Taylor didn’t possess a real desire or sense of urgency to put the UND game back on the schedule. The demands out of Fargo seem to be in constant flux. “Always moving the goalposts” was a common phrase thrown around by Grand Forks fans.

It was easy to blame Taylor, at the center of the negotiations, as a single rivalry roadblock. At times, he appeared to be dragging his feet to play UND.

The most important reason Taylor’s exit leads the UND-NDSU football rivalry into a refreshed discussion is because Taylor was the last major administrator remaining from the hard feelings that resulted during the Division II split.

At that time of the feud, UND’s administrators were athletic director Roger Thomas and President Charles Kupchella. Thomas left UND in 2005 and Kupchella retired in 2008.

Faison, UND’s current AD, and current President Robert Kelley had no involvement in that dated beef.

At NDSU, Taylor was the final piece of the perceived grudge. NDSU president Joe Chapman left his post in Fargo in 2009.

With Taylor out of the picture, renewing the UND-NDSU football rivalry has been injected with new optimism. All eyes first move to Sept. 19, 2015 — the next possible date the two teams could meet in the regular season, a date both schools kept open for a long time for the very possibility.

A week ago, the chances of a 2015 North Dakota rivalry game — with Taylor and Faison at an impasse — were all but dead in the water.

That all changed Monday morning.

 

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Tom Miller
Miller has been with the Grand Forks Herald sports department for the past 10 years. He's also a Grand Forks native and UND graduate. 
(701) 780-1121
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