BEMIDJI, Minn. - Thursday marked an interesting day in the history of Minot State University athletics.
It was the first time since being accepted into NCAA Division II athletics that the Beavers competed against a Division II team.
Maybe more importantly, MSU played against a team from a conference that it wishes to join.
MSU's opponent on Thursday, Bemidji State, has been on the Beavers' football schedule for a number of years. Minot State has competed plenty of times with DII teams in a variety of sports with some good success at times.
But until this season, there were major differences between MSU and its DII foes.
Different teams from different athletic associations with different goals for the season. After the games the two teams would go on their separate ways, with MSU trying to win a Dakota Athletic Conference title and qualify for the NAIA playoffs.
Now the Beavers are a team looking to be at the same level as its DII opponents, if not a higher level.
NCAA's Division II will certainly offer a stiffer level of competition that the Beavers have experienced in the NAIA. Everyone involved with MSU athletics is aware of that face.
This year the game against Bemidji served as more of a competition benchmark.
While MSU won't join NCAA Division II for a couple more years, each time the Beavers play another DII opponent they will have to take stock in the future.
The MSU athletic programs will have to take more than a win or a loss away from the competition. They will have to think about where they want to be when they enter DII.
Minot State's 47-20 loss to Bemidji on Thursday shouldn't be perceived as an example that the Beavers can't compete at the DII level.
But it certainly is an example of how far the Beavers will have to go until they join the NCAA.
(Chris Bieri is a sportswriter for the Minot Daily News. He can be reached at cbieri@minotdailynews,com)