Saturday's game may be final one in a long series

Updated: October 24, 2003, 6:51 PM ET

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- A college football rivalry more than a century old could end Saturday when South Dakota State University meets the University of South Dakota in Vermillion.

SDSU's move to NCAA Division I status next year could end a football series that began in 1889 with a 6-6 tie and is the second-longest series among Division II opponents. The longest rivalry is North Dakota and North Dakota State, who played their 110th game last weekend. That series also is in doubt, since the Bison are moving up to Division I-AA next season and UND officials have yet to agree on a contract for further games.

"No one should assume this is the end," said Fred Oien, SDSU's athletic director. "We've had our discussions and are trying to schedule for next year and the following years for contests, and there may be some middle ground somewhere. But as of now, we do not have a contract."

Despite a proposal and counteroffer between the schools, they are not scheduled to meet again in football after Saturday's game. No discussions are pending, and time is running out for them to schedule a meeting in 2004.

"I would sure like there to be a resolution to it," said Greg Redlin, USD's interim athletic director. "The loss of a rivalry means we're losing something that means so much to so many South Dakotans. But by the same token, we're not going to unilaterally surrender to the terms offered up."

When SDSU moves to Division I next year, it will be required to play 50 percent of its football games against Division I-A or I-AA opponents.

The Jackrabbits have not yet found a Division I conference. Oien said a spot or two a year on the football schedule would be reserved for Division II schools, adding that SDSU would prefer to keep its intrastate meetings with USD and Augustana.

Oien said SDSU has six or seven games verbally agreed upon for next season's schedule, including "favorable discussions with Augustana." Redlin said there is only one spot left for the Coyotes in 2004 -- the first game of the year.

SDSU's initial offer for future games involved football and men's and women's basketball.

Oien wanted the two universities to play each other for two years, with games to be held in Brookings and Sioux Falls. He said games in Vermillion would not be beneficial to SDSU because of the number of Division I road games that would be necessary to meet the NCAA requirements. It would make sense to play any games against lesser-division opponents in Brookings or at a neutral site.

USD refused to give up home games because of the home-field advantage and on-campus revenue from ticket sales. Redlin countered with a deal that would keep things the same as now, with games continuing to be played at both campuses.

John Stiegelmeier, SDSU's coach and a graduate of the school, said he thinks this is the last meeting in football.

"I think with the personality of the situation, the emotions of the situation, it's going to be tough to get together again, really," he said. "I think the rivalry will always be there; it will always be heated. It's been like that for how many years? We've played football for over 100 years. It's almost awkward to think in those terms."

USD coach John Austin, like Stiegelmeier, is an alumnus of the school where he coaches. Like Stiegelmeier, he grew up with the importance of the "State-U" rivalry.

"It's going to be a lot different without this game," said Austin, a Watertown native. "It's a game I grew up with. It gets a lot of hype during the season with the kids and with the coaches, as well as the fans. Every year it's been a game with a lot of people sitting on both sides of the fence."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index