The two universities sit approximately 76 miles apart on the eastern border of the state. The Nickel Trophy is an over sized 75 pound replica of the James Earle Fraser-designed U.S. buffalo nickel with a buffalo on one side representing NDSU Bison and a Native American head on the other side representing UND Fighting Sioux. The late Robert Kunkel, a UND alumnus and Chicago advertising executive, was the originator of the trophy.
The coin shaped trophy's "mint" date is 1937, the year the trophy was created. The Nickel is 250 times larger than a regular five-cent piece and weighs 75 pounds. Inaugurated in 1938, it is 2 inches thick and 22 inches in diameter, and has been the object of many theft attempts by students from both universities.
The first "official" game for the Nickel occurred in 1938 when NDSU won by a 17-13 score. Both teams have had long winning streaks in the series. The most recent streaks of significant length were in 1981-1992, where the Bison won 12 straight games in the series, including two shutout wins (1985 and 1989)- and in 1993-1996, where the Sioux snapped the losing streak by winning four straight regular season games. (As mentioned, the two teams did play playoff games in 1994 and 1995 respectively- the Sioux winning in 1994 and the Bison in 1995). Of more historical note, the Sioux won 12 straight also from 1953-1964 before the Bison stopped the streak with a 6-3 win in 1965.
In 2002, NDSU announced their intention to move their football program to the Division I-AA level (and athletic program as a whole to Division I). An agreement for the schools to continue competing on the field could not be reached between the two universities and was the subject of much controversy following NDSU's reclassification. Thus, the Sioux have held the trophy since October 18, 2003, when they defeated NDSU in the last Nickel Trophy game by a 28-21 score in Grand Forks.
In mid-2006, UND announced their intention to move their football program to the Division I-AA level as well, and it is hoped by many alumni of both schools that the rivalry may resume by the end of the decade on an annual basis.