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UND to play NDSU, SoDak schools annually in Missouri Valley

NDSU and UND line up at the Fargodome on Saturday, Sept 19, 2015, in Fargo, N.D. (Logan Werlinger / Grand Forks Herald)

Next season will be the last one in the foreseeable future where rivals UND and North Dakota State won't meet on the football field.

The teams will play a nonconference game in 2019, then will be annual opponents when UND moves into the Missouri Valley Football Conference alongside the Bison in 2020.

MVFC commissioner Patty Viverito told the Herald that the league plans to protect not only the rivalries like UND-NDSU and South Dakota-South Dakota State, but all of the games between the Dakota schools.

So, although not all teams in the soon-to-be 11-member Missouri Valley Football Conference play each other every year, UND will see NDSU, USD and SDSU annually.

Viverito said the member schools agreed that it was important to protect the bus games to save money on charter flights and limit wear and tear of travel. It also will likely increase attendance by playing regional rivals.

"If we had done a pure rotation, it would cost an outrageous amount of money," Viverito said.

If the Missouri Valley was a traditional one-bid league for the NCAA playoffs, Viverito said it may have considered different scheduling patterns. But the Missouri Valley has five teams in this year's playoffs—half of the league.

Viverito envisions the scheduling philosophy of protecting the regional games to continue.

"Unless something crazy were to happen in the change of minds or change of philosophy," she said. "It's a plan we've had in place since we've gone to 10 teams and it's one we reinforced with North Dakota coming in.

"If we were a single-bid league and competitive equity was more important, we may have thought differently. But this year, being a case in point, if the top half of the league is in the playoffs, who you don't play isn't quite as critical."

That means the decade-plus of battles by UND and NDSU—both to play the game and to avoid the game—will be over.

The annual games temporarily ended after the 2003 contest because NDSU moved to NCAA Division I, while UND stayed in Division II.

Initially, UND declined to play NDSU.

A few years later, UND tried to get the game back on the schedule, but NDSU avoided the rivalry game.

Finally, in August 2014, the schools signed a two-year agreement to play single games in Fargo in 2015 and 2019.

But the challenges of trying to schedule a nonconference game ended this spring when UND announced it was moving out of the Big Sky Conference and into conference homes with NDSU, USD and SDSU in the Summit League and Missouri Valley Football Conference.

While UND will join the Summit for most sports next season, it won't be in the MVFC until 2020.

The Missouri Valley currently plays an eight-game conference schedule. Viverito said that will continue once UND makes it an 11-team league in 2020.

"For selection to the (NCAA) postseason, we have to give our schools the opportunity to play nonconference games," she said.

Brad Elliott Schlossman

Schlossman is in his 13th year covering college hockey for the Herald. In 2016, he was named the top beat writer in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors. He has voted in the national college hockey poll since 2007 and has served as a member of the Hobey Baker and Patty Kazmaier Award committees.

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