Dakota Datebook

Greatest Sports Rivalry Begins

Thursday, November 3, 2011


The greatest and longest lasting sports rivalry within the State of North Dakota began this day on a football field in 1894. Just as tempestuous relationships among the people of Dakota Territory pitted sentiments and loyalties between the North and the South, so did the state in her infant years. Now, for the first time on a North Dakota field, with college football itself being only years old, the gauntlet would be thrown down on the gridded grass.

The state’s first university, UND, would march its squad onto the gridiron to take on a short-handed contingent from the North Dakota Agricultural College, NDAC.

The UND team from Grand Forks, known in the early days as the Flickertails, the affectionate nickname of the Richardson Ground Squirrel, would test its mettle against the Fargo boys from the land grant university, known derisively as the “cow college.”

Both teams were equipped with the standard football gear of the time: laced heavy long sleeved jerseys with belted, lightly padded pants, heavy stockings, laced high-top shoes, and leather helmets, as they tried to control the laced, pigskin football.

There were no mouth guards in those days, and the facemask was unknown. Football was a rough and tumble affair and mostly relegated to the fields of colleges. In the early years of the sport it was not unknown to have serious injuries, including broken bones, bloodied faces, and even an occasional death.

In 1905, following the death of 18 players and 159 critical injuries in 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt demanded that the colleges and universities make the game safer or have it outlawed. Roosevelt’s influence led to the creation of the NCAA – the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Those early teams played on a field designed as a grid of squares. By 1880, innovations included the line of scrimmage and the quarterback. By 1890, years before the UND/NDSU game, players were introduced to a number of new additions, including numbered uniforms, a punt formation, the end around, and the huddle.

Being short of men on the home field, UND used its military instructor, while NDAC suited up 34-year-old professor T.D. Hinebauch. UND was coached by English professor Adolph Bechdolt, who had seen the game played at Lafayette. The Aggies were coached by former Purdue quarterback Luke Bolley.

The game was played and a rivalry was made. UND fell to NDAC 24-6 and the Aggies won their second game in Fargo 20-4.

By 1907, the rivalry was so intense, quote: “on account of the football difficulties,” that athletic events were cancelled between the two institutions, but the excitement of the rivalry trumped the moratorium, and the encounters continued to the delight of the state’s sports fans. It would take a division change to end the play between the two in 2003, but that could change – so hang on to your sweatshirts and caps.

Dakota Datebook written by Steve Stark

Richard Chenoweth,Richard, ; Strand,Mark AC/SU : A history of the North Dakota Agricultural College

http:// www.sportsknowhow.com History of collegiate football

http://www. gobison.com football history

http:”www: fightingsioux.com history

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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