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NDSU and South Dakota near football scheduling deal

FARGO -- North Dakota State and the University of South Dakota appear close to finalizing a football contract to play three games - with the first one in Fargo next fall.

NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor said the two schools have settled on potential dates. The 2010 game would be a guarantee game for the Coyotes and the last two - perhaps in 2013 and 2014 - would be a home-and-home deal.

"In essence, it's a two-for-one in a way," Taylor said.

Meanwhile, Taylor said talks with the University of North Dakota are continuing. He said the two schools don't have potential dates to match up in 2010 and 2011 but that 2012 remains a possibility.

"Eventually the UND thing will work out," Taylor said. "The other thing is UND is a longer-term deal and there are other sports in the mix. The UND thing is more complicated."

NDSU and USD last played in 2003 when the Bison won 35-3 at the Fargodome.

The Coyotes will be in their third year of a five-year NCAA reclassification and are members of the Great West Football Conference - NDSU's previous affiliation until it joined the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

If finalized for next year, it leaves the Bison with one game yet to schedule. Taylor said he's still working on it.

The Coyotes went 5-5 this season, although they finished strong with wins over Southern Utah and California Poly. The Bison have Sept. 18, Sept. 25 and Oct. 30 open next fall, although it's likely the game will be played in September.

"Gene was looking for a home game in 2010 and it made sense for us to play an away game in the region against someone we have a 100-plus year rivalry with," said USD athletic director Joel Nielsen, who said he was "optimistic" the contract would be signed. "Plus, it's a situation where we're giving our fans access to another one of our games."

NDSU wants to keep the October date open if possible.

The attraction to the Coyotes, Taylor said, is it's a good game for attendance, USD is a quality Division I Football Championship Subdivision opponent and a return game later in the contract would involve a bus trip instead of a charter flight.

"It's a team we haven't played in a long time," he said. "It's just like trying to get the Montanas and Montana States on the schedule."