A Few Pounds of Concrete May Not Ever Be Worth a Nickel
Published: Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 16:11
With perhaps the most significant NDSU vs. SDSU football game ever about to be played, its traveling trophy still has a ways to go before becoming the kind of prize that the Bison-Sioux Nickel once represented.
The Mile Marker Trophy could eventually become a just as cherished piece of hardware, but the Nickel’s rich legacy continues to resonate with fans and players who were part of that era.
When the final seconds tick away on Saturday, the victorious team will sprint over to the cement obelisk and proceed to proudly parade it around the turf. From there it will be toted to the locker room on its way to being put on display somewhere on the winner’s campus. This is actually the spot where some of more interesting rivalry stories have occasionally spawned from in the past.
In April of 1994 news broke in The Spectrum that the Nickel Trophy had been stolen from a locked glass case inside of UND’s student union. After claiming the giant size 72-pound piece of currency for the first time in 13 years, the enemies to the north had it pickpocketed a handful of months later. Like most coins do, this one, which is embossed with a Bison on one side and an Indian head on the other, subsequently began be transported around the country while making some stops along the way.
The perpetrators, whose identities were never revealed, expressed that their actions were nothing more than an attempt to revive the old tradition of swiping the trophy and returning it in a few weeks. 1981 had been the last time NDSU fans were given a shot at this feat when a group successfully lifted the Nickel out of the Sioux athletic director’s office a week before the two teams were set to play.
“It was taken right from under their noses,” said one of the 1994 thieves. “I’d just like to thank the UND janitor and security person for walking by and not saying anything.”
The incognito spokesperson went on to say that UND has as much of a clue now as it did before.
To UND’s credit, however, one of the Blue Key members that nabbed the Nickel in 1981 said it was much easier to steal it then versus 1994.
During the weeks following the most recent heist, the trophy went on a little trip to South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska. Parents of one of the robbers agreed to haul it around and snap some pictures of it at various landmarks. I specifically remember seeing one of it place in front of Mt. Rushmore and another proving it also vacated in Estes Park.
Although the spring semester ended without the Nickel ever physically surfacing, it was worth the wait to find out how it was returned to the rightful owners over the summer. UND alum Ed Schafer, who was serving as North Dakota Governor at the time, received it via UPS to his office at the state capitol building.
Undoubtedly an embarrassment for the Fighting Sioux, the Nickel stealing tradition was never allowed to happen again. NDSU had already taken measures in the early ‘80s to prevent any such happening under its watch. The friendly swapping of pranks had all but officially come to an end after the Nickel’s multi-state adventure. Unfortunately, the battle for it on the field also went to the wayside 10 years later.
Sports are supposed to be fun and serve as a release from the realities that we often need to escape. Not so serious scandals, like the one I just shared, definitely add some entertainment value. Thanks to the ‘94 grads, who had the intestinal fortitude to follow through with their grand theft traveling trophy scheme, memories, along with a unique conversation piece, were created for many of their fellow students.
As for the Mile Marker trophy, I think it might have some promise and that of course starts with the intensity brought by the men lining up along the line of scrimmage and the hopefully capacity crowd. They and we as rabid fans are ultimately responsible for making sure that it will not be heading south.
In the unlikely event that it does leave the state, such a happening could be construed as an opportunity… if you know what I mean? I’m by no means promoting the pilfering of any particular prize, but would encourage the rekindling of a long lost tradition. How hard could it be to walk out of Brookings with an inscribed chunk of curb?