Tradition & History

Stories from the Rivalry: 1 Family. 2 Universities. Priceless In-State Rivalry

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Photos by J. Alan Paul Photography

For Tyler Dahlen, attending UND was an automatic yes. But not without NDSU football coaches knocking on the front door of his house first.


Tyler Dahlen said it was a “no- brainer” decision considering his father, Andy Dahlen, played football for UND and Tyler grew up wearing the green and white every Saturday in the fall.

“I grew up a Sioux fan, (and) it was kind of a thing,” Tyler Dahlen, the former UND linebacker from 2001-05 said. “You know, I was always going to be a Sioux player. I was recruited by both schools, but it was a pretty easy decision.”

Not to mention that Tyler Dahlen and his father boast a record of 6-1 against the Bison, with Tyler adding his last win to the win column in 2003.

The last time UND and NDSU played was an instant classic in 2003, with UND preventing the Bison immaculate comeback in the fourth quarter and gaining everlasting rights Nickel Trophy that has been in Grand Forks ever since.

That season, Tyler Dahlen played in all 14 games and finished with 41 tackles, including eight tackles for loss, which would tie him for third on the team. With a fourth-and-one on NDSU’s 16-yard-line, the Bison were down by seven in overtime and were in desperate need of a first down to keep the game alive. UND head coach Dale Lennon sent in his goalline package to stuff the Bison run, but that meant Tyler Dahlen would be out of the game. He watched from the sidelines as fellow linebackers Digger Anderson and Eric Halstenson stuffed Rod Malone before he reached the line of scrimmage. Tyler Dahlen, the UND sidelines and the Alerus Center crowd erupted in victory.

Tyler Dahlen has always known the importance of the UND-NDSU rivalry splitting his childhood between Grand Forks and Fargo.

“It’s nothing like any other game that you could ever imagine,” the physical therapist at Sanford said. “The intensity is ten times greater than any other game, and you kind of always have it marked on your calendar even though, technically, you’re taking it game by game.”[/text_output]

Katie Dahlen
Katie Dahlen

Kayla Dahlen
Kayla Dahlen

[text_output]The year 2003 couldn’t seem to get any better for Tyler Dahlen after all the football success he and his team had endured, but then, his two sister’s Katie and Kayla (Dahlen) threw him a dead duck like a quarterback would after getting wallopped by a pass rusher.

Katie and Kayla Dahlen attended NDSU and played women’s basketball from 2003-2007. The family was split. Two student-athletes attending UND and two other student-athletes accepting scholarships from the rival school.

“I’d be sitting in the student section and I’d be watching my sisters play and I’d be cheering for them, but I still wanted UND to win. It’s kind of a different scenario or circumstance,” Tyler Dahlen said with a laugh.

But he was serious, he would never wear any NDSU clothing. And if his sisters bought him anything? “He would burn it. I’m not kidding. It would be in the fire,” Kayla Dahlen said.

Andy Dahlen wanted his daughters to attend UND, but they never received an offer from their fathers’ alma mater, and they both wanted a package deal so NDSU was the destination with the pharmacy program acting as the deal- breaker for Kayla.

“(We) didn’t do (a lot) of recruiting visits,” Katie Dahlen said. “We really liked the atmosphere and we knew they were a good school.”

But in the end, the two chose the university that their brother and father both grew up wanting to beat.

However, Andy Dahlen, the principal at Fargo North High School, had to learn how to wear the two rival schools’ colors.

“It was in my heart that my girls would go to UND as well,” Andy Dahlen, a member of the UND Hall of Fame, who played on the football team from 1976- 1980, said. “They got a nice offer there (NDSU), and so they decided to go there and had a great experience and played four years there. I had to wear some Bison colors for just four years, but you support your family wherever they are playing.”[/text_output]

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[image type=”none” float=”none” link=”true” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” src=”3957″]

[text_output]Katie and Kayla Dahlen were 2-2 against UND their freshman season, and when the Bison women’s basketball team traveled north to play UND, the two never received any heckling from the rowdy fans because their brother was a three-time letter winner on the football team and was, clearly, pretty well-known and had the respect of UND fans.

“I remember playing against UND up in Grand Forks and I could hear the football players in the front row, the UND ones, saying, ‘Those are Dahlen’s sisters, no one can talk to them, no one can heckle them,’ like they were really kind of cool about it. So instead of bashing us, they left us alone,” Kayla Dahlen, now a pharmacist at CVS said.

But the heckling doesn’t stop at home or at the cabin when the families are together.

Andy and Tyler Dahlen try to trick Katie Dahlen’s 3-year-old son Kellen into thinking UND is better than NDSU.

“Once he (Kellen) gets around Tyler and Dad, they try to convince him to be a Sioux fan, and then he’ll come up and say ‘Go Sioux’ and we’re like ‘No,’ and he’s like, ‘Grandpa and Tyler are Sioux fans,’ so then he’s really confused,” Katie Dahlen said with a laugh.

Odds are odds, and the sister’s are outnumbered 3-2 with Tyler, Andy’s wife, Renee, being UND graduates. But after Katie Dahlen was done playing, she evened the score by marrying former NDSU quarterback, Steve Walker. With Kayla Dahlen expecting her second child in September, consequently around the same time the NDSU-UND football rivalry returns, the power shift to NDSU will be complete.

But at the lake cabin, a UND flag hangs outside instead of an NDSU green- and-yellow flag.

The only love for the Bison comes on a floor mat showing NDSU on one-half and UND on the other. Clearly, Katie and Kayla need to do some more green and yellow shopping.[/text_output]

Stories from the Rivalry: 1 Family. 2 Universities. Priceless In-State Rivalry
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