The Northern Colorado Bears will make the short trip to Hughes Stadium in 2011 as part of the Rams non-conference football schedule, the CSU Athletic Department announced Tuesday.
The Bears, of the Football Championship Subdivision Big Sky conference, are set to receive a guaranteed $225,000 payday for their efforts.
“This is something we’ve wanted to do for a while now, and we’ve finally been able to make it happen,” Ram Athletic Director Paul Kowalczyk said in a written statement.
“I think it’s an outstanding game for this region, an opportunity to spotlight both institutions and their football programs. We’re looking forward to renewing this series.”
CSU has not played UNC since the 1986 season and the two schools have only played each other three times in the last 30 years.
CSU has never lost to UNC, with an all-time series record of 16-0-1.
Still, Ram head coach Steve Fairchild said he believes the proximity of the two teams will help to foster interest in the game.
“If we’re going to play a [Division] I-AA team, it just as soon be UNC and have some local interest in the game,” Fairchild said.
“I’m sure they think it’s probably a good game because they get a Division-I opponent and don’t have to travel real far.” For Colorado natives like running back Kyle Bell, the game represents a chance at beating a team from close to home.
“Being from Northern Colorado, it’s good to play someone in the area,” Bell said.
“Maybe it will develop into a rivalry, who knows?”
Since making the jump to Division 1-AA (now FCS) in 2003, the Bears have gone 17-39 against the tougher competition, including a 6-28 record in the past two years.
They drew an average of just over 4,000 fans to their home games last year and are picked to finish last in the Big Sky this season.
“They’ve won national championships there before,” Fairchild said of the level of competition. “They’ve always got a chance to be a competitive team.”
Bell agreed with his head coach.”Any Saturday anybody could beat anybody,” Bell said. “No matter what level the team is, you have to come to play.”
For the Bears, the game presents an opportunity for exposure more than anything else.
“This is a great opportunity to regionally showcase our football program,” said Jay Hinrichs, UNC director of athletics. “We have faced the Rams in a number of sports and I know our student-athletes look forward to the competition.”
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