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Kolpack: It's no longer a game, it's a festivus for the rest of us

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North Dakota State head coach Chris Klieman congratulates his former quarterback Carson Wentz during the ring ceremony before the NDSU Green and Gold Spring Game last year at the Fargodome. David Samson / The Forum2 / 2

The football fan will find plenty of options this weekend at the Fargodome thanks to the annual North Dakota State spring game. You can start with the Bison Showcase on Friday night, which includes a platform of auction items for any green-and-gold blooded man cave.

On Saturday, the players will be available for autographs, a tailgating expo will provide ideas for the parking lot next fall and Games Galore will have its inflatables for the kids to enjoy.

But here's a suggestion.

So what do you say we get rid of the annual Green vs. Gold game and, with apologies to George Costanza, call it what it is: The Bison Spring Football Festivus. With a focus on limiting injuries and not putting the stars of the team at risk, the game has morphed into more of a glorified practice anyway.

"We'll be trying to get the young guys as many reps as we can," said Chris Klieman.

The fourth-year head coach ended his thought with "keeping everybody healthy and getting ready for summer."

And that's what he should say and should do. Even if linebacker Nick DeLuca never had a scratch and possessed Superman shoulders in his previous three years, it would make no sense playing him. Even if defensive tackle Nate Tanguay had the strongest knees in the country, it would make zero sense to play him, also.

This is a game about redshirt freshmen and guys trying to move up the depth chart. And even then you'll probably see them at full power for maybe two quarters. Coaches can teach the basics without needing four quarters of live contact in a spring game to put it into action. At this level, players are generally fundamentally sound enough to block and tackle without beating each other up.

It's a trend of injury prevention that's happening around the country. Last week, the NCAA banned two-a-day practices for all divisions. Rutgers is considering no tackling at its spring game. Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald told USA Today he wasn't sure he has enough healthy players for a live scrimmage. To help with fan engagement, the Wildcats hold a youth camp after their not-so-live game.

Youngstown State canceled its spring game earlier this month because of inclement weather with a forecast in the 30s with rain or snow. It's not exactly playoff-like temperament.

NDSU is doing its best to provide the bells and whistles outside the lines. This fall, the combined net worth of all fan tailgating vehicles in the Fargodome lot is expected to surpass $100 million, or somewhere around there. It's a good time to spray off the winter dust and use them for an afternoon.

If you can't make it to the event, my sympathies in trying to watch it. I'm not a TV guy, and I'm especially thankful I'm not one today. The folks on the state-wide broadcast microphones will need to do something just short of Billy Crystal to keep the folks watching at home entertained because this is not exactly riveting stuff.

The good news is NBC came to the rescue with the Minnesota Wild playoff game at 2 p.m., so the North Dakota network will only have to fill an hour from the 1 p.m. kickoff. As for the printed word story, I'm making no promises it will keep you reading to the final paragraph.

Besides, it's not really a game anymore, anyway.

It's almost as if the highlight is a ring ceremony. It's a festivus for the rest of us.

What: Green vs. Gold Spring Game

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Where: Gate City Bank Field at Fargodome

TV: KVLY. Radio: 107.9-FM

Jeff Kolpack
Jeff Kolpack covers North Dakota State athletics, the Fargo Marathon and golf for The Forum. His blog can be accessed at www.bisonmedia.areavoices.com. On the radio, Kolpack & Izzo sports talk show runs from 9-11 a.m. every Saturday morning. April through August, the WDAY Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack runs from 8-9 a.m.
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