From Randall to TCF, frat runs for charity

Minnesota and Madison FIJI members buck rivalry for a cause.

Melissa Berman

When temperatures plunged as low as 10 degrees early Saturday morning, most people bundled up. But a few University of Minnesota students wore shorts and celebrated.

Members of the University’s Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, or FIJI, arrived at the darkened gates of TCF Bank Stadium around 4 a.m. Saturday after nearly a day of running.

Putting rivalries aside, FIJI chapters from the University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin-Madison teamed up for the fifth annual Rivalry Run to raise money for the American Red Cross and the Coach Kill Cancer Fund, formed by Minnesota head football coach Jerry Kill.

In the Rivalry Run, one person runs at a time and support cars follow along the way. Madison’s FIJI members took turns running an honorary game ball on highways and back roads from Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wis., to Winona, Minn. There, they met members of the University’s FIJI chapter, who completed the 270-mile journey to TCF Bank Stadium for Saturday’s football game between Minnesota and Wisconsin.

FIJI members set up an online donation page, sold shirts and bracelets and held fundraisers at several local restaurants, with all proceeds going to the charities.

The chapter that earns the most gets to keep an ax until the following year, like the Gophers and Badgers football teams. Last year, the University’s FIJI chapter raised $1,185, falling short of Madison. This year’s totals have yet to be finalized, but the combined total is currently more than $10,000.

Matt Levine, Office for Fraternity and Sorority Life program director, said the run is an opportunity for fraternities from rival schools to interact and compete for a common goal.

“So often you hear about the Minnesota and Wisconsin rivalry,” he said. “This is an opportunity to bring everybody together, support a great cause and build fraternal spirit before we go into the big game.”

Rivalry Run chairman Carson Ingle said runners and their support have been pulled over by police, but officers typically shrug it off.

“Usually, they’re just wondering what we’re doing. And when we tell them it’s for philanthropy, they’ll just laugh,” he said.

Mechanical engineering freshman Kyle Stahl participated in his first Rivalry Run this year. He said the cold temperatures made things difficult.

“It was just so cold. I think I ran faster knowing I could get back in the car when I was done,” he said.

Most runners take shifts of four or five miles, depending on their pace and how many members participate, Ingle said.

Though the event usually goes smoothly, FIJI members remember a few bumps from years past.

During the “graveyard shift” — about 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. — during the 2011 run, Ingle said, a support car broke down next to an abandoned factory in the countryside.

Half of the group went to a car repair shop for help, he said, while the rest stayed with the broken car.

“We were in the middle of nowhere, and we were all just thinking, ‘This is how it always starts in horror movies,’” he said.

But the group ended up safely at home in time for the football game, Ingle said.

Challenges aside, Ingle said collaborating with Madison for charity is a worthwhile experience.

“Working with Wisconsin FIJI lets us work together for a common goal and celebrate the spirit of our rivalry,” he said.