FARGO -- It's not as if Lafayette College is new to indoor football. The Leopards played the first indoor night college football game ever when they took on Washington & Jefferson College in the Atlantic City (N.J.) Auditorium.

That was in 1930. Longevity, historical perspective and academic prowess are on Lafayette's side. Familiarity in the Upper Midwest is not.

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North Dakota State will get its first look at the small liberal arts school (enrollment 2,300) located in Easton, Pa., about halfway between Philadelphia and New York. The Fargodome home opener is set for 6 p.m. Saturday.

Remember when the University of North Dakota and NDSU had one of the longest-running rivalries going? Lafayette and Lehigh is the most-played rivalry in college football at 146 games.

A game in Fargo, however, represents a "first" for Lafayette. The farthest west the Leopards have played a game was Parkersburg, W.Va.

That was in 1896.

"I think it's good for the school and great for the league," said Leopards quarterback Ryan O'Neil. "There are not a lot of Patriot League teams that get to go out west. It will be great to get off the East Coast for a bit."

Lafayette's Patriot League is a conference that awards financial aid with need-based scholarships, although not everybody in the conference is on board with that. Fordham offers athletic scholarships in football and is therefore ineligible for a conference title.

The league has seven football members, and it does receive an automatic bid to the FCS playoffs. Lehigh took its conference title and promptly went to Northern Iowa, the Missouri Valley Football Conference winner, and beat the Panthers in the first round - a signature victory for the league.

"It showed the Patriot League has some good teams and can play good competition," O'Neil said. "Sometimes, it doesn't get as much recognition as other FCS leagues."

The Patriot League scholarship issue -- whether to add athletic awards or not -- was tabled by the conference presidents. Lafayette's Frank Tavani said as a head coach he would like that opportunity for athletic aid.

But the debate, obviously, came down to money. If a school increased the budget in football, it also has to add somewhere in the women's athletic department because of Title IX implications, Tavani said.

"It doubles the cost," he said. "From a financial standpoint, you can't make a decision that you can't back up financially. That's why it was tabled."

A game farther than Parkersburg, W. Va., however, was not tabled.

"We have the opportunity for an expense-paid trip to Fargo, "Tavani said. "You can't get that every day."

Kolpack is a sports writer for the Fargo Forum