St. Cloud State campaigned for years to get an adequate football home, and it finally arrived in 2004 with the opening of Husky Stadium. The 4,200-seat facility includes artificial turf, a grandstand and press box, and an up-close view of the Mississippi River.
The women's soccer team will continue to enjoy this fine venue for years to come. There's no such certainty for the Huskies football team, which could be playing its last home game ever when Hillsdale [Mich.] College arrives Saturday for a first-round meeting in the NCAA Division II playoffs.
Students have been voting this week on whether to approve two increases in the activities fee -- one for 74 cents per credit and a second for an additional $1 a credit. Presumably, if both were to pass, draconian cuts to athletics would not be necessary and football would be saved.
The voting concludes Wednesday. And if the referendums fail, the odds are strong that university President Earl Potter will end the school's 88-year tradition of playing football.
Potter and Morris Kurtz, the long-serving athletic director, made this clear with the announcement in mid-August that dropping football was an option for dealing with projected deficits of $500,000 in athletics in the 2012 and 2013 fiscal years.
The Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference saw Potter's threat to drop football as serious enough to have its board of directors take this stand three weeks ago: Football is now among the required sports, and any member not fielding a team will be dropped from the 14-school conference.
Amid this uncertainty, coach Scott Underwood's Huskies put together a 9-2 season and advanced to the Division II playoffs for the third time. The others came in 1989 and 2004. The infrequency of postseason play didn't dissuade the Huskies from preseason optimism.
"We expected to be a playoff team,'' Underwood said. "We opened at Augustana, had a nine-point lead with nine minutes to play and let the game get away. We went back to work.''
Underwood said the key to a successful run in the Northern Sun was a 31-26 victory over Winona State in the season's third game. Tony Kubes, a junior safety from New Prague, agreed.
"Winona State was looked at as one of the big teams in the league,'' Kubes said. "They came into our place, it was a great game and we came out with a win. We were pretty dominant after that ... except for UMD.''
That would be Minnesota Duluth, unbeaten, No. 1-rated in Division II and the opponent that waits for either the Huskies or Hillsdale.
"We were in the UMD game at halftime, then made a bunch of mistakes in the second half,'' Kubes said.
The final was a 40-17 victory for the Bulldogs. And if the Huskies make it to the second round, they would travel to Duluth, just as they did on Oct. 30.
But first is Hillsdale -- and even before that the results of the student referendum on adding $1.74 per credit to the tuition fee.
Quarterback Phillip Klaphake, a redshirt freshman from Princeton, said: "We want to be confident, but we really don't know how the vote is going. We've been doing the best we can, talking to students, trying to pass along the message that this isn't just about football -- that's it about all activities, and those are important to a whole lot of students going to school here.
"I'm like everyone else; I'm hoping. This is where I want to be, as a student and as a football player.''
Klaphake spent last fall practicing and learning. He took over a veteran offense this season, led by Fred Williams, a senior receiver and kick returner from Milwaukee.
"Obviously, I'm prejudiced, but Fred Williams is the best receiver in Division II,'' Klaphake said. "Even when teams double-cover him, Fred will figure out a way so you can get him the ball.''
Klaphake was named the Northern Sun's offensive newcomer of the year this week. Operating out of the shotgun, he has passed for 2,490 yards, rushed for 703 yards and totaled 32 touchdowns.
There might be a recruit of the Fred Williams variety -- very dynamic -- that would like to spend the next three seasons teaming with a quarterback of Klaphake's talent. Except:
"Recruiting? That's an open question right now,'' Underwood said. "How can we tell a young man, 'Hey, come to St. Cloud and this is the way we see you fitting in with our team,' and, 'We really see good things for you,' and 'Oh, yeah ... I'm not sure we're going to have football.'"
The Huskies will know more when the votes of their fellow students are counted. And that result will make Saturday's game at Husky Stadium either a celebration of present and future football success or a sendoff.
Patrick Reusse can be heard noon to 4 weekdays on 1500ESPN. firstname.lastname@example.org