(Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography)
This past week of watching UND sports and keeping an eye on Bison sports has taught me a few things. First, both UND and NDSU have competitive programs in soccer, and the Halloween matchup in Fargo this year could produce one of the best games of the year in the Summit League this season. UND is 5-1-1 through its first seven games and will challenge for a spot in the Summit League Tournament alongside the Bison. This is the deepest team Coach Chris Logan has had, and as shown today when Mimi Eiden had a hat trick in the first half, anyone can score at any time for this team.
Moving on to volleyball, these teams play each other twice every season in the Summit League and already have fans that travel to either school to check out a great match up. UND is a young team with one senior this year, while NDSU could challenge for some hardware. That dynamic, as with soccer and other sports changes yearly based on players.
Why am I talking about these sports when advocating for a new trophy for this rivalry? Well, these are two fall sports that will not get as much viewership or attendance as the big one, football, already did when the Bison rolled to a 38-7 win over the Fighting Hawks, and I think fall is a good place to start because if this is to be a true all-sport cup, then all sports that have the Bison facing off against the Fighting Hawks should be able to participate.
That said, we need a new trophy. For reasons discussed for a long while mainly relating to UND retiring the Fighting Sioux nickname, the Nickel Trophy has been retired. Going forward, from covering multiple sports where these teams compete tough every single season, I truly believe a great way to spur interest and attendance at both venues across all sports shared by these teams over the season is through creating a challenge series.
Yes, football would rightly be included as would every shared sport that these teams compete against each other in, team or individual. For individual sports like cross country that aggregate team standings the team that “wins” could be the team finishing higher at the Summit League Championship for these respective sports.
Why go through this to create a trophy only these two schools can earn? Well in college athletics, money drives the discussion and interest in events spurs people to spend money. If you could encourage more fans from Fargo to make the trek to Grand Forks and vice-versa these schools would automatically benefit as they would see higher gate sales for these common games.
In addition, let’s call it the Gate City Peace Garden Cup for discussion purposes only, could encourage more corporate sponsors to either spend more for naming rights to the Peace Garden Cup, or they could offer special deals and incentives centered around these games. What I mean by this is tapping into ancillary revenues. So many bars and restaurants already tap into these bigger games like football to provide discounts, deals and general ways to spend more money. While I realize it is not possible to do this for every single event every time for these sports, doing more to capitalize on UND-NDSU will drive more business to these firms.
In addition, perhaps the winning school could receive a corporate prize pack from the sponsors in exchange for reads during games, extra signs in arenas, and other things throughout the year. Finally, imagine the good publicity that the sponsor will get when the winner can show off the cup every season at all of that school’s home matches and the good will they could engender within both Fargo and Grand Forks for participating.
Finally on a personal level, I see the way that fans still talk about the Nickel Trophy, if you create a Cup that both schools agree on points and rules for and let both work with their marketing and sponsorship teams to sell sponsorships for these special events then both schools can only benefit. While seeing UND play NDSU in softball is great, perhaps having that series decide who wins the bragging rights and whatever other fame that creates instant reads and marketable promos. I can already see Alex Heinert hyping up this series throughout the season.
I see the passion fans have for these games on either side of the rivalry. Increasing interest in all sports that these schools compete against one another in, while working to improve revenues coming into both schools is something I strongly believe merits further consideration. The Peace Garden Cup brought to you by (insert sponsor name here) is something I hope to see soon.