The Free Press, Mankato, MN

September 13, 2013

MSU vs. Crookston shows disparity in Northern Sun


The Mankato Free Press

---- — Minnesota State takes on Minnesota Crookston in a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference football game Saturday at Blakeslee Stadium.

It’s the home opener, a time for the Mavericks’ football program to celebrate last season’s accomplishments and look forward to an equally successful run toward a national championship over the next four months.

However, this matchup will not likely be competitive, and the majority of those in the stadium at the start will be home or enjoying drink specials by the time the Victory Bell rings.

This game shows the disparity within the 16-team Northern Sun. The Mavericks have a chance to win a national championship, while the Eagles barely have a chance to win a game. In the opener, Upper Iowa, perennially one of the worst teams in the South Division, defeated Minnesota Crookston 47-0.

Minnesota State and Minnesota Crookston played each other in 2010 and 2011, with the combined score of 84-3. And that gap could have been wider had the Mavericks remained interested.

It has to be troubling for the folks in the Minnesota Crookston athletic department, which doesn’t win in any sport. It should be troubling for the folks at the Northern Sun office, who must realize that Crookston is literally out of its league, along with a couple other programs.

There’s no solution to the lopsided nature of this conference. There are a handful of programs that win at nearly everything, and a handful at the bottom, with little chance of having success in any sport. Minnesota State is one of the programs that should challenge for conference championships and national-tournament berths in all sports, while Minnesota Crookston needs to find a different league if it ever wants to see any success.

On Saturday, Minnesota State will likely roll to a big halftime lead, come back for the third quarter to watch the reserves wrap up a convincing victory. Crookston will likely absorb the pounding and get back on the bus for a long ride, much like it does with every road game.

Minnesota State’s “1-0 each week” will be tested, given next weekend’s much more important game at Minnesota Duluth. If Crookston had more horses, this would be considered a “trap” game.

It’s predictable. It’s unfortunate.

Instead, it points out the distance between the top and bottom of the Northern Sun, a problem that has no easy explanation. Unless these two programs end up in different conferences in the future, this series is doomed to be ugly.

Chad Courrier is a Free Press staff writer. To contact him, call 507-344-6353, e-mail at ccourrier@mankatofreepress.com or follow his Twitter feed @ChadCourrier.