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Bill would force Bison-Sioux game

A bill in the Legislature would force North Dakota State and the University of North Dakota to renew their football rivalry.

Rep. Louise "Weezie" Potter, D-Grand Forks, introduced House Bill 1507 this week because residents of her city had been asking for it.

"I just think it would bring back something to North Dakota that a lot of folks have missed," Potter said. "I think the students enjoyed the rivalry. I think the alumni across the state enjoyed the rivalry, and it went away."

The bill says NDSU and UND shall schedule and play a National Collegiate Athletic Association football game against each other according to a schedule worked out by athletic directors.

NDSU and UND would alternate hosting the games.

Rep. Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks, another sponsor of the bill, said the hope is the teams could play in 2009 or as soon as a game could be scheduled.

Legislators would be satisfied with an exhibition game, Mock said. But NDSU Athletic Director Gene Taylor said exhibition games are not allowed by the NCAA. And the soonest NDSU could schedule the game is 2012, Taylor said.

"It's not as though we said we were never going to play them," Taylor said. "I don't think we need legislation that would force us to play because really it's not a matter of if, it's when."

Taylor said there are many factors legislators have not considered, such as the budget implications it would have.

Another complication is that NDSU belongs to the Summit League, which recently cautioned members against scheduling games with UND until the Sioux nickname has been resolved.

The football rivalry between NDSU and UND began in 1894. Aside from a couple of interruptions, it continued until NDSU moved to Division I in 2004.

UND has the Nickel Trophy for winning the last game in 2003.

UND Athletic Director Brian Faison did not return a call seeking comment.

Earlier this month, Faison told The Forum he is ready for the two teams to play again.

Grand Forks resident Dave Whalen, who asked Potter to submit the bill, said he hoped for legislation that would require NDSU and UND to play in all sports, not just football.

"I personally think it's ridiculous they're not playing in any sports," said Whalen, a UND grad.

The main goal of the bill is to spur officials from the two universities to discuss the issue, Mock said.

"If it doesn't need legislation, awesome," Mock said. "I just want them to play."

The bill also is sponsored Reps. Eliot Glassheim, D-Grand Forks, Scot Kelsh, D-Fargo, and Francis Wald, R-Dickinson, and Sen. JoNell Bakke, D-Grand Forks.

The bill has been referred to the House Education Committee.