'Paint Bucket' football rivalry likely put on hold until 2021 season
JAMESTOWN, N.D. — One of North Dakota's most storied college football rivalries is scheduled to hit a snag this fall for the first time in 74 years.
The 122nd meeting between the University of Jamestown and Valley City State on the gridiron most likely won't happen until 2021 following the recently announced return to fall sports plan put forth by the NAIA. The football season has been trimmed by two games and won't begin until Sept. 12, meaning nonconference games for the Jimmies against rival Valley City State (Aug. 29) and Presentation College (Sept. 5) will need to be crossed off the schedule.
News broke last week of the NAIA's initial fall sports response in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The NAIA had originally stated it would roll out plans on July 1.
VCSU leads the all-time series against UJ in football at 63-53-5 dating back to 1909. The only year football didn't happen between the Vikings and Jimmies occurred in 1946. The rivalry game is played for the "Paint Bucket" trophy.
"I'm glad that we're playing football in the fall," said Jimmies head football coach Brian Mistro, a former Concordia assistant coach. "Yes, it does hurt that we're not playing Valley on Aug. 29, but never say never. Things have been changing day-to-day since COVID started, so, hopefully, things can change again."
The NAIA's return to sports hinges on a minimum threshold of participating institutions receiving clearance from local authorities to return to sports in order for fall seasons to begin. That threshold is roughly half and would mean approximately 47 of the NAIA's 95 participating institutions in football would need the all-clear for football to commence.
Other fall sports, such as women's volleyball, men's and women's soccer and cross country, would need to meet similar thresholds. The NAIA believes scheduling, travel cost and missed class time for student-athletes would all become issues if a minimum participation threshold isn't met.
Practices for all sports will begin Aug. 15 with competitions beginning Sept. 5, except for football. If all goes to plan, football will begin one week later after four weeks of practice.
UJ's fall football camp was originally scheduled to begin Aug. 6. Only conditioning activities for student-athletes can take place between now and Aug. 15 and any activities deemed practice by the NAIA will be prohibited.
"Up until (Aug. 15) we can work out in the weight room as a team with coach Ryder (Weischedel) our strength coach and that's it," Mistro said. "But we're playing football and that's what everybody wanted."
Along with the maximum number of regular-season contests in football being slashed from 11 to nine, women's volleyball is being cut from 28 dates to 22, both soccers are being cut from 18 matches to 14 and cross country from eight meets to seven. The NAIA does intend to host all fall national championship events as currently scheduled.
University of Jamestown women's volleyball became the school's first sports program to compete in an NAIA championship semifinal last fall. The Jimmies won a program-record 33 matches in 2019, including the Great Plains Athletic Conference tournament championship, and are poised to have another solid season in 2020.
The GPAC also announced its return to fall sports plan earlier this week that is basically in lockstep with the NAIA.
"I'm really glad we have a plan and we have it now," said UJ women's volleyball coach Jon Hegerle. "We weren't expecting to maybe have that until July 1, so it's really nice knowing where we're going and what it's gonna look like. I'm also really glad that the GPAC just stayed in alignment with what the NAIA proposed and nationals are in the plan."
The NAIA currently has no changes planned for winter sports and stated it will announce health and safety protocols, such as testing and screening options, for the fall in the near future.
No major changes are currently slated to impact UJ's fall golf, baseball and softball programs.