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UND AD Faison may be willing to OK a Fargo-only deal to get football rivalry going

University of North Dakota athletic director Brian Faison, who previously held firm asking for a home-and-home football series against North Dakota State, said Friday that he would consider playing two games in Fargo. Forum News Service file photo

GRAND FORKS – University of North Dakota athletic director Brian Faison may be willing to sign a contract to renew the UND-North Dakota State football rivalry without any guarantee of a game in Grand Forks.

Faison, who previously held firm asking for a home-and-home series, indicated Friday that he would even consider playing two games in Fargo for a monetary guarantee just to get the dormant rivalry started again.

“There’s a strong sentiment from a certain part of our fan base that, whatever we have to do, let’s do it,” Faison told Forum News Service. “If that means one game or two games … at least it gets it to being started again. I’ve been working to get a home-and-home, but that doesn’t appear to be in the mix.”

The teams, which haven’t competed against each other in football since 2003, could play as soon as next season.

Both UND and NDSU have an open date on Sept. 19, 2015, that needs to be filled. The programs are eager to find an opponent for that date soon.

When asked whether the teams could get something done for that date before it’s too late, Faison said: “That window is going to close pretty soon for both of us, but I hope so.”

Faison has been negotiating with NDSU’s Prakash Mathew, who is serving as the interim athletic director since the departure of former AD Gene Taylor eight days ago.

Taylor, who left for a job in Iowa’s athletic department, previously locked horns with Faison in their negotiations.

Emails obtained through an open record request showed that Taylor and Faison were close to agreeing to a home-and-home deal to play in Fargo in 2015 and in Grand Forks in 2017. But beginning in January, Taylor began changing terms of the contract.

In an email sent Jan. 24, Taylor told Faison that NDSU has to play six home games in 2017 and would not be able to play a road game against a Football Championship Subdivision team. He offered that both games be played in Fargo, but Faison declined.

In another email on Feb. 19, Taylor offered monetary guarantees of “$190,000 for one game or $380,000 for two games” in Fargo. Faison counter-offered different dates for a home-and-home series.

In May, Taylor changed that guarantee to $125,000 for a single game in Fargo in 2015, while drawing up framework for the deal, including number of tickets and sideline passes.

However, four days before leaving office, Taylor sent another email to Faison saying that a single game in Fargo would no longer work.

“I talked with our President and football coach,” Taylor wrote on July 28. “We are still going to hold to a two-game deal in Fargo to get this started. For various reasons that I have mentioned before we feel that two games to start the series in Fargo is where we start. Since you can’t make another road game work in 2017 we will offer the September 19, 2015 in Fargo and another game in either 2018 or 2019 that works for you. We have options for both of those years.”

UND has one open date in 2018 (Sept. 1) and three available dates in 2019 (Aug. 31, Sept. 7, and Sept. 14).

On Friday, NDSU announced a home-and-home agreement to play Eastern Washington University in Fargo in 2016 and in Cheney, Wash., in 2017. Asked whether it was frustrating to see NDSU sign a home-and-home deal with EWU that includes a road game in 2017 for NDSU – when Taylor previously said that wasn’t possible – Faison said, “Yeah.”

NDSU also has scheduled a home-and-home series with UND’s Big Sky Conference-mate Weber State with games in Ogden, Utah, this season and in Fargo in 2015.

“I brought up the Weber State thing to Gene,” Faison said, “but we have to deal with what’s in front of us now.”

Schlossman writes for the Grand Forks Herald