FARGO — In a year where the COVID-19 pandemic has turned the sports world upside down, the fact North Dakota State is starting its Missouri Valley Football Conference season on a Sunday seems fitting.
The Valley Football Conference announced its league schedule for the spring 2021 season, which will begin the weekend of Feb. 20 and includes eight games in nine weeks ending April 17. The Bison open on Sunday, Feb. 21 against Youngstown State at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.
"If we've learned anything in the last five months, it's get used to the unusual," said NDSU athletic director Matt Larsen. "Sunday is different but the good thing is it still allows folks if they have to travel a distance to get to the game to maybe come in on Saturday and be home the next day."
The league schedule was adjusted to make use of dome stadiums at NDSU, North Dakota, South Dakota and Northern Iowa and the southern-most Valley schools earlier in the season. All of NDSU's other three home games are on a Saturday.
"I'm fine with it," Larsen said. "There was some adjustment in everybody's schedule."
Some schools are playing on Thursday and Friday. NDSU has a bye after the Youngstown game and plays at Indiana State on March 6. The byes were instituted so no Valley school has fewer days to prepare for its next game than its opponent.
"We tried to make it as equitable as possible," Larsen said.
The NCAA Division I Football Championship selection show is scheduled for Sunday, April 18. The FCS playoffs, reduced from 24 teams to 16 teams this year, will run four straight weeks culminating with the national championship game the weekend of May 15.
NDSU has four home and four road games. Other home games are March 13 against Illinois State, April 3 against South Dakota State and April 17 against North Dakota. NDSU will travel to South Dakota, Missouri State and Northern Iowa.
The Bison will not play Southern Illinois or Western Illinois due to the conference scheduling rotation for 11 teams.
2020-21 NDSU Football Schedule
October 3: vs. CENTRAL ARKANSAS
February 21: vs. YOUNGSTOWN STATE*
March 6: at Indiana State*
March 13: vs. ILLINOIS STATE*
March 20: at South Dakota*
March 27: at Missouri State*
April 3: vs. SOUTH DAKOTA STATE*
April 10: at Northern Iowa*
April 17: vs. NORTH DAKOTA*
*Missouri Valley Football Conference games