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UND makes correct decision to have game against NDSU in the Betty instead of the Ralph

by Mike McFeely

I've received a number of messages from North Dakota State and North Dakota men's basketball fans asking why this year's game between the teams is being played in the smallish Betty Engelstad Sioux Center instead of the larger Ralph Engelstad Arena.

The Nov. 24 game is scheduled for 5 p.m. at the 3,300-seat Betty. 

Listeners who have contacted me are wondering why the game isn't being played in the 12,000-seat Ralph, considering it is expected to be a competitive contest between the Bison (picked to win the Summit League in preseason prognostications) and UND (picked to finished second in the Big Sky Conference).

Here is a sample of an e-mail that came in today:

"A game like this will quickly outsell the capacity of the Betty and should be played in the Ralph.  I have heard Brian Jones say that he would prefer the game played in a smaller venue. To me this is a very shortsighted view.  A decent marketer, with a feel for the rich history of the UND/NDSU rivalry, could easily put 9,000-10,000 fans, maybe more, in the seats for that game.  With a big crowd in place the atmosphere in the Ralph can be electric. If both teams go into the game healthy and play up to their potential the place will be jumping.  Why put the game in a building that robs 7,000+ people of the opportunity to see this classic matchup?"

I sent an e-mail to UND assisant sports information director Ryan Powell asking for a comment from either head coach Brian Jones or athletic director Brian Faison regarding why the game is being played in the Betty instead of the Ralph and this is the response I received from Powell:

"The game is being played in the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center and the reason is that is where the coaches and administrators wanted the game to be played this season."

OK, then.

If the presumption the e-mailer had that Jones wanted the game in a smaller venue is true, that makes sense from a home-team standpoint. UND wants a small, intimate setting in the venue in which they normally play their games. The crowd, presumably, will be mostly UND fans and they will be close to the action. It would be a nice home-court advantage, in other words. I don't blame the coach for wanting that. His job is to win games. If the athletic director signs off and says he is willing to leave a few bucks in ticket sales on the table, then I am OK with it.

Fans also have to remember last year's game between NDSU and UND at the Fargodome drew only an announced crowd of 5,168. The game easily could have been played in the Bison Sports Arena and had a much better atmosphere. Head coach Saul Phillips said as much after the game.

I don't disagree with UND's decision to play this game in the Betty. Sometimes a smaller venue is better than a bigger one and that is the case this time.

What is your opinion?

(Mike McFeely is a talk-show host on KFGO-AM in Fargo, N.D. He can be reached at mike.mcfeely@mwcradio.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcFeelyKFGO.)