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VIRG FOSS: A Nickel for your thoughts

Slowly but surely, the Hatfields and McCoys of North Dakota are learning to get along, though hostility remains. We're talking NDSU and UND athletics, of course, fresh off UND's victory over NDSU in men's basketball earlier this week. UND now has...

Virg Foss
Virg Foss portrait

Slowly but surely, the Hatfields and McCoys of North Dakota are learning to get along, though hostility remains.

We're talking NDSU and UND athletics, of course, fresh off UND's victory over NDSU in men's basketball earlier this week.

UND now has beaten NDSU in baseball, volleyball and basketball while chasing NDSU in the learning curve of Division I athletics. That's a major step for the program at the school formerly known as the Flickertails.

Even with a touch of hostility shown on the floor between rival players Tuesday night and a few X-rated chants from the fans, this was UND-NDSU rivalry like it was in the good old days.

The fact that neither team could shoot straight took nothing away from the fierce intensity that flickered to life again in the greatest athletic rivalry in North Dakota.

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Let's hope this leads to a continued thawing in the deep freeze that has existed between the two state universities since NDSU moved to Division I and UND lingered behind for a few years.

Which brings us to football, the last holdout in the Cold War athletically between the Bison and our old Flickertails.

I know athletic directors Brian Faison (UND) and Gene Taylor (NDSU) have had talks about scheduling a game, but nothing has materialized. With UND soon joining NDSU in having a full conference schedule to play, we understand scheduling roadblocks exist.

But the sooner the series can be resumed, the better it is for fans at each school. Nothing stirs the blood in North Dakota fans like a UND-NDSU game, regardless the sport.

NDSU is coming off an impressive Football Championship Subdivision title recently, which certainly positions NDSU ahead of UND (and everyone else this year) in football.

But when the rivalry resumes on the gridiron, let's not forget that the Nickel Trophy, which goes to the winner of the UND-NDSU game, resides in Grand Forks.

So while NDSU has the trump card in the form of the national championship as bragging rights, there's the little thing of the prestigious Nickel Trophy residing in UND's possession, hidden away somewhere. That alone should reason enough for NDSU to want to resume this football rivalry soon.

Then there's the matter of the trophy itself. Since nobody has seen it for a while, it's time for a refresher.

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It's patterned after the old nickel coin produced by the U.S. Mint from 1913-1938, with a likeness of a buffalo on one side and an image of a Native American on the other.

The trophy was never called the Sioux-Bison trophy, and the Indian image depicted on the coin is not specific to the Sioux Tribe.

Still, with UND in the process of retiring its nickname name and logo, what do the politically correct police say about the Nickel Trophy these days?

With the name and logo going away forever pending lawsuits and petitions playing out now, can we play for the Nickel Trophy in football? I would hope so, but it is certainly not my call.

If you recall, there was a time when North Dakota and South Dakota played for the Sitting Bull Trophy in football until South Dakota decided it wasn't the PC thing to do.

Since South Dakota originated the trophy, the Coyotes asked for it back to retire it. But UND, which won the last time the schools played with the trophy at stake, kept it.

The Nickel Trophy has been as big a part of UND-NDSU football as the game itself. Students have sent raiding parties from both schools to try to steal it from the school possessing it. It was always part of the intrigue of the game and the spirit of the fans, not to mention the skullduggery of the students.

So what's your call when the game resumes? Do we play for the Nickel Trophy again? Send me your thoughts. I'll include the best replies in next week's column.

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Foss is a Hall of Fame journalist who reported on sports for 36 years for the Herald until his retirement. He writes a weekly column from October through April. Contact him at virgfoss@yahoo.com or at (701) 772-9272.

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