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BUTTE — The Oredigger auction, held each year on the same day as Montana Tech's open scrimmage, is more than just a fundraiser.

It's a reunion, a good time and a chance for Butte to come together.

"It's just been a tremendous community event," Oredigger head coach Chuck Morrell said. "It's very big for our athletic department, it's an opportunity for us to raise scholarship money for all the student-athletes at Montana Tech.

"It's near and dear to me. I had an opportunity to run it for a few years and it's a big job."

Athletic Director Matt Stepan is running the show this year and even on Wednesday, there were already preparations being made in the HPER complex for the space-themed event. Setup will continue over the next few days for the the auction, which starts at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. 

Doors open at 5:30 p.m. with the silent auction starting a half-hour later. Tickets and and table reservations can be made by calling 406-496-4105.

The proceeds from the auction help fund Montana Tech student-athlete scholarships. It's an important night for the Oredigger athletic program monetarily, but also is a chance for many former players to reunite.

Even current players on the team are already planning on making return trips in the future.

"Next year it'll be cool to come back and see everyone from the years before," said defensive lineman Brock Beede, who will be a senior this fall. "A couple years down the road I'm sure we're all going to want to meet up and go to the Digger auction."

Morrell not worried about university changes

Montana Tech is exploring changes to the name of the university as well as bold new vision for what the school wants to be.

The three proposed new names — Montana Technological University, Montana University of Science and Technology and Montana University of Science, Engineering and Technology — all can still be shorted to Montana Tech.

This was an important part of the process in choosing a new name and Morrell was well aware it was going on.

"In my mind, Tech is Tech," Morrell said. "You say Tech and the Orediggers and I think that's our stamp and that's going to carry throughout the state. Obviously if there's a name shift or change I don't think it's going to be so drastic that people aren't going to identify us as Tech."

Spring scrimmage closing in

Before the auction gets started, Montana Tech will have an open scrimmage that starts at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

Score won't be (officially) kept and the coaching staff doesn't plan on going through a full 100-play game simulation, but it'll be the first chance for the public to see the 2018 iteration of the Oredigger football team. 

It's also a chance for parents to get a chance to watch their kids and get to know one another, which Morrell thinks is an important part of the day.

"The key thing that I've seen is the relationships that have been built between the families," Morrell said. "You see them becoming great friends and enjoying each others company outside the framework of the football game.

"To me, that's really one of the coolest things."

The players are certainly looking forward to playing with people in the stands.

"I'm excited to get out and get live with everyone's parents and stuff," Beede said. "A lot of people like to come down and watch."

Jordan Hansen covers prep and Frontier Conference sports for the Montana Standard. Shoot him an email at Jordan.Hansen@406mtsports.com or give him a shout on Twitter @jordyhansen.

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