UND AD set for his first taste of the in-state football rivalry

060419 S GFH SATHER BillChaves01.jpg
UND Athletic Director Bill Chaves introduces newly-hired head men's basketball coach Paul Sather (not pictured) during a press conference Monday afternoon at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

At previous career stops at Baylor and Eastern Washington, UND second-year athletic director Bill Chaves has been part of some intense college football rivalries.

Still, he knows he's in for something unique Saturday when UND and North Dakota State play at 2:30 p.m. in the Fargodome.

"I think some of the schools I've been at, interestingly enough, haven't been in a scenario where it's 'University of' against 'State U'," Chaves said. "That'll be new to me as a professional."

At Eastern Washington, the big, anticipated game was Montana but the Grizzlies still had an in-state rivalry with Montana State. Then at Baylor, the heated matchup was with Texas A&M, who still had the in-state rivalry with Texas.

"This really gives me an opportunity to be full-fledged into a state rivalry for those three hours (today) where the entire state will be very interested," Chaves said. "I'm anxious. I'm looking forward to going down and rekindling the rivalry. I'm looking forward to watching a game where the initial game was in 1894 ... there's not many times you can say that."


As Chaves attends alumni functions and meets fans and supporters of the Fighting Hawks, he said he hears about the rivalry occasionally. The conversations, he said, are often more about the public's excitement in returning to general regional rivalries with the move into the Missouri Valley Football Conference in 2020 and the Summit League, which took place in 2018.

"You're always worried about yourself more than anything," Chaves said. "But from a competitive standpoint, we're extremely aware of what's occurring (with the North Dakota State football program's success)."

After this season's non-conference game, UND and NDSU will begin to play yearly -- at alternating sites -- beginning in 2020.

One of the topics of discussion for a conference matchup will be whether the game is played at the end of the year, which is the case with some FCS rivalries such as the Brawl of the Wild between Montana and Montana State.

Chaves said he's brought up the possibility to MVFC commissioner Patty Viverito, but he acknowledged there could be challenges associated with that type of schedule tweak.

"I think naturally it makes some sense," Chaves said. "The more stipulations, though, you put on a scheduler, the more difficult it becomes. It's going to take the Valley to figure that out and with an odd number of teams moving forward, it's not as simple as you might think."

Another topic of discussion among fans and the media this week has been the re-introduction of a traveling trophy between the two teams.

Prior to the rivalry's renewal in 2015, which ended a 12-year span without the game, UND and NDSU played for the Nickel Trophy, a 75-pound replica of a U.S. buffalo nickel that had a buffalo on one side and a Native American head on the other side. The nickel was awarded every year from 1938 to 2003.


UND retired the Fighting Sioux nickname in 2012 and the Nickel Trophy was also retired as a result.

Chaves said he'd like to see a trophy be associated with a statewide cause.

"I think as we move forward into the Valley, I think that's where the conversation really picks up," Chaves said. "Whether it's student bodies or folks in Bismarck or alumni groups ... I think there's some thoughtful conversation that can occur. I do think there's room to shine a light on a cause. Whatever that cause may be, there's a tremendous opportunity for a three-hour period to do something that is really good for the state."

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019 and 2022.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
What To Read Next
Get Local