Former Bison QB, Spuds coach Feeney has multiple ties to both sides of NDSU-UND football rivalry
Moorhead Spuds head football coach Kevin Feeney played quarterback at North Dakota State from 1995-1998 when the Bison were an NCAA Division II program. He's coached players who are currently on NDSU and UND rosters.
FARGO — No matter which team wins the North Dakota State-University of North Dakota football game this upcoming weekend, the result is going to earn one family in Moorhead free yard work.
If NDSU wins, the Andersons are going to have a cleaner yard. If UND wins, the Feeneys are going to have a tidier lawn. That's because of a friendly wager made between Matt Anderson, the father of Bison true freshman offensive lineman Seth Anderson, and Jett Feeney, the sixth grade son of Moorhead Spuds head football coach Kevin Feeney. Seth played for Kevin in high school.
Jett's older brother, Trey Feeney, is the Spuds senior quarterback who signed to play with the Fighting Hawks beginning next fall.
“The losing person has to go to the other house and clean the yard," Kevin said with a laugh.
The No. 4-ranked Bison host the No. 2-ranked Fighting Hawks at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, March 20, at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. The game is a pivotal matchup as both teams cross the midway point of the Missouri Valley Football Conference spring season. UND (4-0, 4-0 MVFC) leads the conference with NDSU (4-1, 3-1) tied for second place with two other teams.
The Fighting Hawks are in position to win the MVFC championship in their first season in the league. UND was picked to finish seventh in the Missouri Valley in the preseason coaches poll. The Bison, the three-time defending Division I FCS national champions, have earned at least a share of the league title the past nine seasons.
“I think North Dakota still feels like there’s more out there for them and they have to prove people wrong," Kevin said. "If you were to look at the North Dakota State side, they shouldn’t have anything to prove, but I’m sure they feel like they have something to prove that this team isn’t down and out by their standards.”
Kevin has considerable ties to both sides of the rivalry. He was a four-year starter at quarterback for the Bison from 1995-98 during the Division II era. His older brother, Steve Feeney, played defensive back for UND from 1987-90. Kevin has two sisters who are UND graduates and he's also had multiple players he's coached in high school play for both programs.
"The ironic thing is I was a ball boy at UND and Trey was a ball boy at NDSU," Kevin said.
UND redshirt sophomore Otis Weah, who played for Feeney at Moorhead, is having a dynamic spring season for the Fighting Hawks. The 5-foot-9, 195-pound running back has rushed for 441 yards and six touchdowns on 63 attempts through four games. He's averaging 7.0 yards per carry and rushed for 163 yards and two touchdowns in a Week 3 home win against South Dakota.
“With his play on the field, Otis’ success has dominated a lot of conversations in our household," Kevin said. "It’s been so much fun to talk to him after every game.”
UND junior kicker Brady Leach also played for Feeney with the Spuds.
“You're always tied to those kids because football is such a year-round thing that you develop such a close relationship with these kids that you want to support the heck out of them no matter where they go," Kevin said. "We’ve had a lot of guys up at North Dakota and we’ve had a lot of guys at North Dakota State.”
Matt Anderson, who played football at South Dakota State, is also one of Kevin's assistant coaches.
Kevin said he's still very close with a lot of his former Bison teammates and coaches. He's also built a strong relationship with UND head coach Bubba Schweigert and the Fighting Hawks coaching staff with Trey headed to Grand Forks next fall.
Kevin said he got a call from Trey after UND's 28-17 home victory against South Dakota State earlier this season. The Jackrabbits were ranked No. 3 in NCAA Division-I FCS heading into that game.
“When I talked to him on the phone, you would have thought Trey played in that game, how excited he was, and me as a parent, that kind of gave me goosebumps," Kevin said. "He is jacked to get up there.”
The Bison have dominated the previous two Division I FCS games between the teams. NDSU earned a 34-9 victory in 2015 and a 38-7 victory in 2019. Both those games were played in the Fargodome. The Fighting Hawks are the higher-ranked team heading into this matchup.
"From talking to my former (Bison) teammates I get the sense that they’re excited that North Dakota is coming with a really good football team this week," said Kevin, whose wife Jamie is also an NDSU graduate.
Kevin said this tilt is reminiscent of the NDSU-UND games in which he played when both programs were in Division II.
“The days when I was playing and even back to when my brother (Steve) was playing, the anticipation for this game was talked about every single day every year," Kevin said. “The ramifications of this game always meant so much. ... When (UND) made the move to the Valley, I was extremely excited because it’s a game that needs to be played every year on a rotation basis.”
Kevin isn't sure how he will take in Saturday's showdown. Ellie Feeney, his daughter, is a sophomore on the Moorhead Spuds girls hockey team and she could potentially have a game.
“I might be sitting in a hockey arena on Saturday," said Kevin, who passed for 4,757 yards during his Bison career. “I’m sure I will be able to follow the (football) game somehow.”