The North Dakota State University athletic department lost their main rival when they decided to go Division I. Without being able to play the University of North Dakota in any athletic contest for first several seasons of the transition, the Bison went looking for a replacement.
Meanwhile, down in Brookings, South Dakota, the South Dakota State University Jackrabbits were having a bit of their own rivalry identity crisis. So, the Bison and the Jacks got together, made a trophy for the only sport America cares about (FOOTBALL!!!) and presented the public with a rivalry.
However, it didn’t feel that way. SDSU had a decent team and they beat the Bison that one year when NDSU was playing in some conference and neither team was eligible for the playoffs. Remember that?
After that, it has been NDSU winning national titles on the gridiron while SDSU has won a couple playoff games. If there is suppose to be a rivalry there, I don’t feel it. In football, it just does not exist and probably never will.
No, the rivalry happens on the hardcourt, where both teams have enjoyed nearly the same type of success since moving up to Division I. For the Bison, it was their emergence onto the national stage when they became the media darlings of the 2008-09 NCAA men’s basketball season.
With the tenacious play of Ben Woodside, the Bison were able to earn a spot into the NCAA tournament in their first year of post-season eligibility. Instead of sitting back and sulking, SDSU got better. They recruited their own stand-out Minnesota guard in Nate Wolters.
When you saw Wolters warm up, you wondered how could this guard be so dominate? Slowly, but surely, he would drop 20 points, seven assists and grab six rebounds on your team, while setting up countless other baskets for his teammates. SDSU rode the Wolters train to back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances.
The level of success for both of these teams has been similar and the crowd atmosphere at these games is equal. NDSU does not like SDSU and vice versa. It does not feel welcoming in either building. It feels even less inviting in Frost Arena, where the student section sits directly behind the benches, feeling like they are on top of you for the entire 40 minutes, hurling insults at players all game long.
These two teams meet at Frost Arena on Saturday and it will not be a walk in the park for NDSU, despite SDSU’s loss of Nate Wolters to the NBA. It will be intense and it will not be friendly. I suggest you watch this game or listen to it on the radio.
This is what a rivalry is supposed to feel like.
You can follow Daniel "Pinto" Gunderson on Twitter at @pintoKFGO or friend him on Facebook. You can hear him on his weekly podcast show on kfgo.com, 740thefan.com or on iTunes called “The Pinto and White Shadow Show.” Pinto is a radio producer within the Midwest Communications-Fargo company.