UND-NDSU trophy conflict continues off-field

FARGO — At 75 pounds and tough to move unless you’re a weight lifting-trained football player, the Dakota Marker has been resting comfortably in Brookings, S.D., since 2016. That’s when South Dakota State defeated North Dakota State to claim the prize that goes to the winner of the game.
With the retirement of the Nickel Trophy, which went to the winner of the NDSU and University of North Dakota football game, the Dakota Marker is the lone regular season prize for the Bison. It’s been missing from a trophy case on the NDSU football office that was built specifically to house it.
“Obviously it piques your interest a little bit when you walk by it and there’s not a rock in the case,” said NDSU quarterback Easton Stick. “But our goal is to win the Missouri Valley and that starts Saturday with a big one.”
The Nickel, meanwhile, may be gone from football game circulation but it’s still making the rounds. At least couple of photos showed up on the social media site Instagram of people posing with it at Oxbow Golf Course in Hickson, N.D., and Legends Golf Club in Prior Lake, Minn.
That was enough for Lauren Singelmann to try and do something about it. She’s the vice president for Blue Key Honor Society at NDSU, the group which handled the Nickel since its inception in 1938. A 2014 Fargo North graduate, she remembers sitting on the couch at home with her father in Fargo watching the 2012 Prairie Public Television documentary “When They Were Kings,” which detailed the Bison-Sioux rivalry, mostly in the 1980s and ’90s in football and women’s basketball.
“Just being able to appreciate the history of this trophy in general,” Singelmann said.
An amendment to a bill the 2017 North Dakota Legislature passed that required the Nickel to be put on display at the North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum in Bismarck became law on Aug. 1, 2017. It prompted State Rep. Roscoe Streyle, R-Minot, to tell The Forum last spring “It’s unbelievable to me. It should have been done six months ago.”
UND athletic director Bill Chaves said this week the university plans to honor that stipulation by the end of December. Why not now?
“We’re showcasing it at our football games,” Chaves said.
That’s not what Singelmann wants to hear.
“It’s unfortunate UND is bringing it to home games and doing this tour,” she said. “It’s been out and about. At this point, I want us to get a chance to say farewell to it. If they’re going at it with this idea they should get a farewell tour, why not celebrate it as two campuses?”
The Nickel was last fought for in 2003 when UND defeated NDSU 28-21 in overtime at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks. Because NDSU started a Division I reclassification in 2004, the two schools did not play again until 2015, which resulted in a 34-9 Bison win.
By then, UND had changed its nickname to the Fighting Hawks, which rendered the Nickel moot. It has a buffalo on one side and an American Indian head on the other.
“A lot of current Blue Key members and alumni feel bummed out the way this is shaking out,” Singelmann said. “We haven’t been involved or communicated with.”
Chaves said NDSU having time with the Nickel is a question for the Heritage Center in Bismarck.
Meanwhile, the Dakota Marker was born in the spring of 2004 by NDSU’s Blue Key and SDSU’s National Honor Society and the school’s Student Association. It was done indirectly to honor the Division I move that both schools made together to try and put some juice into the rivalry between the two schools.
It took several years, but it is now a rivalry.
Most of that has to do with unexpected rise of SDSU’s football program. The Jackrabbits for years were an average Division II team, but have fared much better at the FCS level. NDSU leads the Dakota Marker series 8-6 with the teams meeting in the FCS playoffs three times.
The trophy is a replica of the original quartzite monuments that were 7 feet long and 10 inches square that were placed at half-mile intervals along the border in the early 1890s.
Some are still there today.
For NDSU to get the Nickel one more time, Blue Key will have to work the system. For the Bison to get the Marker on Saturday, it will have to win at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.
“When you’re around it, you realize how much it means to the fans and the community,” Stick said.