The rivalry between North Dakota and North Dakota State hasn’t garnered much attention nationally over the years, but that may change this weekend due to a charitable gesture by both head coaches.
North Dakota’s Brian Jones and North Dakota State’s Saul Phillips will both coach Sunday’s game barefoot to raise funds for the Samaritan’s Feet organization. Samaritan’s Feet even has a connection to the rivalry, as founder Manny Ohonme is an NDSU grad school alum.
The goal of the organization is to provide shoes to the 300 million people around the world who are without shoes, with Samaritan’s Feet estimating that more than one million people die annually as a result of the diseases that can afflict those individuals.
Ohonme attended college as an undergraduate at Lake Region State College in North Dakota, and Samaritan’s Feet didn’t get its first boost until 2008 when then-IUPUI head coach Ron Hunter went barefoot and helped kickstart the donation of some 100,000 shoes.
“What started in my little garage in 2003 has now galvanized a global movement,” Ohonme said. “It’s going to be exciting for me to come back to what we knew as home and see the people of North Dakota rally around this.”
Since Hunter went barefoot to raise funds more coaches joined the cause, as thousands of coaches as various levels of basketball have shed their shoes and socks to raise money.
Even with the importance of this rivalry game both coaches see the bigger picture, which will make for a fun and memorable Sunday afternoon in Fargo.
“We will still be trying to beat each other’s brains out during the game, but we can agree that we can do some good here in the meantime,” Phillips said to Dave Kolpack of the Associated Press.
Photo credit: Associated Press (Samaritan’s Feet founder Manny Ohonme)