BY JEREMY HOECK
When you have such varying degrees of emotion following a sporting event and fans become involved on the field of play, it’s only inevitable those situations turn ugly.
That exact thing happened Thursday night in Orem, Utah.
A player for New Mexico State threw a basketball at a Utah Valley player out of frustration at the end of their game (won by UVU in overtime), and it all boiled out on the court after fans rushed out of the stands.
In short: Punches were thrown, and NMSU players and fans had to be separated. Fortunately, there were no reports of any serious injuries.
University of South Dakota fans will remember Utah Valley — its same men’s basketball team played in Vermillion back in December — and the location, the Great West Conference tournaments were once held in Orem.
But my question is rather simple: Are we surprised this happened?
No? OK good, it’s far from surprising. In fact, I’m amazed this doesn’t happen more often.
Think of all the times you’re watching SportsCenter and you see footage of an upset victory, where the home crowd — typically the students — rushes the court in celebration.
What you usually don’t see is the opposing team off the court. In most cases, the losing team’s coaching staff and players are making their way back to the locker room. It’s during those moments where emotions could boil over: You have the frustration of the losing team mixed with the elation of the home fans.
While watching the highlights of Thursday’s fight, I got to thinking about something. Could I see that happening at a high school or college game around our area?
Take Yankton High School, for example. There is a South Dakota state post-season policy in place that punishes schools whose fans prematurely rush the court. Sports editor James Cimburek and I couldn’t remember a time when Yankton students ran on to the basketball court after an upset win.
A football field, though, presents a different challenge because of the open space. Someone — or a group of people — could hop the fence and rush the field, and could conceivably get tangled up with opposing coaches or players.
Nebraska football fans will remember the name Kellen Huston, who was suspended after punching a Missouri fan during a crowd-storming back in 2003.
The best such example, of course, is the so-called ‘Malice At The Palace’ during a 2003 NBA game in Detroit, where Indiana Pacers players fought with fans. That was a situation where emotions clearly spilled over into the stands; though that was mostly Ron Artest reacting to a cup of water being thrown at him and attacking fans — and it turns out, the wrong fan at the onset.
Although that situation in Detroit was perhaps a unique situation, you could see where it could happen in a situation like a basketball game. Even at the DakotaDome in Vermillion, the University of South Dakota student section is located right near the visiting bench. Both times the Coyote men’s basketball team beat South Dakota State at the DakotaDome, USD students rushed the floor — though by that point, the Jackrabbit coaches and players were almost back in their locker room.
But think about it. A fight like Thursday night in Utah could obviously happen around here. And it wouldn’t take much of a spark.
No state policy or number of security on hand will prevent such a situation taking place. Not in a highly-intense, emotional atmosphere, where things happen in the heat of the moment that are apologized for later.
You just obviously hope something serious doesn’t happen.
BY JEREMY HOECK
You’ve likely heard that term before, right?
It refers to a scheduling format, used notably in our region by the Summit League, that involves a team playing the same opponent on the same night, but in different locations — the USD men and women could play North Dakota State, with one game in Vermillion and the other in Fargo.
Well, its use for basketball scheduling in the Summit is about to change.
• • • •
USD women’s basketball coach Amy Williams was in Yankton on Wednesday as the featured speaker, and was asked about mirror scheduling.
Her response was something along the lines of, “It’s not going to continue.”
She went on to talk about having the teams separated on the same night and the fact that by having home games every Thursday and Saturday, it puts a strain on the administration (I’ve heard that more than a few times).
Naturally, I saw the potential to do some more asking around.
• • • •
Later in the afternoon, I called the Summit League office, and within 15 seconds, was on the phone with commissioner Tom Douple. (He’s an accessible guy, as you can tell).
His biggest point was that with the addition of Oral Roberts to the league next year, having nine members presents a problem. Suddenly, someone — ORU — is left without a travel partner.
And so, the league, according to Douple, went about trying to tweak the basketball schedules for 2014-15. What they did was try to keep as many travel partner trips as possible, and whenever possible to keep games as close to the nearest city as possible.
What the league got was a “hybrid,” Douple said, between a true mirror schedule and all doubleheaders. There will be some doubleheaders within the league, and in many cases could have a school playing two different opponent — for example, USD could have a doubleheader where Omaha plays in one game and Western Illinois the other.
The game times for those doubleheader have yet to be determined, according to USD athletic director David Herbster. But he hinted at potentially having them at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on a weekend, otherwise they would be back to back as normal.
Herbster also said USD was interested in having more flexibility for when those league games would played, instead of the Thursday-Saturday format every week. And so, according to the new schedule, games could be played on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays.
Certain events as the annual Dakota Farm Show in Vermillion were naturally a concern for USD; in other words, that’s pretty much a locked session (typically middle of the week) every year. Douple alluded to certain “facility issues” that the league tried to work around — he did not specifically mention the Farm Show.
Among the other issues USD wanted to look at was potentially more televised women’s games, Herbster said. That’s a question for our friends at Midco Sports, but with mirror scheduling, those men’s games will get the TV coverage. With more doubleheaders in regional spots like Vermillion, Brookings, Fargo and Omaha, you could envision more of those double-dips being televised.
(Speaking of which, I’ve never really bought the argument that people will not attend games that are on TV. You still have folks coming to the arena.)
• • • •
And so, now it’s up to the fans to decide what they think of the changes.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard fans mumble about wishing they had doubleheaders to attend, rather than one game a night.
What would doubleheaders mean for attendance?
You could look at the official figures from schools that have had both doubleheaders and single games and judge, but it’s clear that fans across our region prefer doubleheaders.
When you’re talking about a town like Vermillion, for example, you are drawing in folks from across the region — certainly more so than are from within the city limits. Wouldn’t they rather have two games?
Personally, and it sounds selfish, but I’ve longed for doubleheaders to return in the Summit League. We will undoubtedly run into deadline issues with the men’s games, if those don’t start until 8:30. But we can deal.
All in all, it’ll be interesting to see how next basketball season goes within the Summit League, and whether or not the conference decides to stick with the updated format.
BY JEREMY HOECK
VERMILLION — As part of his rotation across the eight members of the conference, Summit League commissioner Tom Douple found his way Thursday to the University of South Dakota.
Sitting high up in the DakotaDome seats, Douple chatted briefly with the Press & Dakotan during halftime of USD’s men’s basketball game against Omaha.
What’s your impression of the basketball season so far?
It’s been the best men’s basketball season we’ve had in the history of the league. We’re as highly rated as we’ve ever been. The women are having a great year too. We got as high as 14 in the RPI, now we’re fluctuating between 14 to 16 in a lot of the polls. We’ve really made some strides.
More of those high-profile wins certainly help, I would imagine? (NDSU men beat Notre Dame, SDSU women beat Penn State, Fort Wayne women beat Michigan State, etc.)
Absolutely; those are great for our league. The other thing that stands out, we’re beating teams we should be beating. Our non-conference wins have really picked up. Our coaches are scheduling better non-conference games, which helps increase your RPI. Those are all things we put into a plan and you hope everyone implements them. That helps us in our seeding for the NCAA, and helps you with bids in the CIT or the CBI, or whichever tournament.
Is the league inching toward multiple NCAA Tournament bids?
We’re definitely inching that way. Right now, NDSU (men) was 45, so they’re on the cusp, we would hope. Those are the things that you look at. If we can continue to average four or five teams in post-season play, all that rolls into building a good image for your league.
How has the addition of Denver helped?
We’re ahead of the Sun Belt in the RPI, and same with the WAC. So this is the highest league they’ve been in. They’re a great fit, no question. I don’t know what our numbers will eventually get to, but you’ve got to concentrate on who you have. Last year everyone thought the sky was falling down, but we’ve got to take care of business.
You probably get the expansion question a ton, don’t you?
It’s non-stop, definitely. We’re out there talking to folks, and I forsee us continuing to be active in expansion. I don’t want our folks to get caught up in, ‘You’ve got to have a set number.’ We have eight solid members right now. We want the right fit, that’s the most important thing. We’ve opened up a lot of eyes.
It seems like that’s been a consistent message with expansion, ‘finding the right fit.’
Denver was the right fit for us. A great market, a great program, great academics. That’s a good fit. Getting Oral Roberts back, obviously, that’s a right fit. Everybody knows, we could expand to 14 tomorrow, but that’s not the way we want to approach this. Not every school would be the right fit for us at this time. There are probably some out there, obviously, that would be the right fit for us. And we’ll continue to explore those.
You can follow Jeremy Hoeck on Twitter at twitter.com/jhoeck. Discuss this story at http://www.yankton.net.
BY JEREMY HOECK
South Dakota State head football coach John Stiegelmeier was in Yankton on Wednesday as the featured speaker at Yankton Quarterback Club. He touched on a number of topics in his speech and ensuing Q&A session. Below is a short interview I had with him and then some notes.
On Yankton recruit J.J. Hejna: In saying the Bucks standout can play a lot of positions, Stiegelmeier said that once Hejna focuses solely on football in college, he could bulk up. The coach used former Jacks standout Adam Timmerman as an example. Timmerman, who went on to play in the NFL, gained 40 pounds in his first semester in Brookings.
On rivalry game at USD last November: “I credit their A.D. and their administration on how to redefine what a rivalry means.” He was referring to the absence of incidents before, during and after the games.
On progression of program: Said he remembers people 10 years ago questioning the move to Division I suddenly asking ‘Is that the best you can do?’ when SDSU lost in the second round of the FCS playoffs. “That’s a pretty good accomplishment, but it’s not close to what the expectations are in our program.”
On comparison to North Dakota State: Stiegelmeier pointed to SDSU’s budget being 61 percent of what NDSU’s is ($1.5 million more). “We’re not going to out-buy them.”
On standout running back Zach Zenner: “I hope we find a backup. This year he was beat up. He needs a break.” Stiegelmeier started by saying he doesn’t want Zenner to rush for 2,000 yards again next season.
On areas that need attention for 2014: Stiegelmeier pointed to losing four senior offensive linemen and four defensive lineman. “That’s really scary.” Said having a standout quarterback (Austin Sumner), running back (Zenner) and wide receiver (Jason Schneider) are “nothing without the fat guys in front of them.”
On 2014 schedule: SDSU has two open dates for this coming season, Sept. 20 and Sept. 27. Stiegelmeier said the program is seeking a sixth home game, and made an offer to another FCS school earlier Wednesday. He listed a couple of options, including Portland State which apparently said no to the offer.
On future scheduling: Jacks have FBS games announced with Missouri (2014), Kansas (2015) and Texas Christian (2016). Stiegelmeier said a 2017 FBS game has yet to be scheduled, but did mention Iowa State (2018) and Minnesota (2019).
On potential NFL prospects: Doug Peete (defensive end), Winston Wright (cornerback) and Bryan Witzmann (left tackle).
On recruiting a pair of junior college transfers, Landon Schultz and Travis Zimmerman (Iowa Western CC): Stiegelmeier said he is typically not a proponent of junior college kids. “I want to build a program on young guys, guys that will develop in your program.”
While speaking of recruiting, Stiegelmeier also had some strong words for the term ‘walk-on,’ particularly the way Nebraska uses that term — “they made it something it really isn’t.” “That costs a lot of young men the opportunity to play,” he said, pointing out that, at most, one or two walk-ons per year even see the field.
Stiegelmeier said SDSU refers to those recruits as “non-scholarship” athletes, “because we expect them to play.”
BY JEREMY HOECK
Returning home from a 3-game road trip, the University of South Dakota men’s basketball team will host a pair of Summit League games this week against two drastically different styles.
(This is where the stat nerd in me will really come out).
Among the contrasting styles you could find in the conference, Omaha (which visits Vermillion on Thursday) and Western Illinois on Saturday are close to as polar opposites as it comes.
According to KenPom.com, which breaks down a team’s true offensive and defensive efficiency, Omaha ranks among the best in Division I in adjusted tempo and Western Illinois ranks among the bottom tier.
Adjusted tempo, as described by KenPom, is “an estimate of the tempo (possessions per 40 minutes) a team would have against the team that wants to play at an average D-I tempo.”
Omaha ranks fifth at 74 possessions per game, while Western Illinois ranks 327th. The Coyote men, for reference sank, rank No. 132 at 67.6 possessions.
In short, what that means is that Omaha runs and runs and runs. They push the pace, score quickly and give you plenty of chances to score.
The Mavericks (15-11, 4-6) lead the league — barely — in scoring, at 79.8 points per game, but because of its fast-paced tempo, gives up the most points in the league (73.9).
Western Illinois (9-16, 3-7), meanwhile, has been famously patient on offense under head coach Jim Molinari. In the first meeting, the Coyotes were done in by a 12-point first half deficit.
It’ll be interesting to see how USD fares against those styles at its home court, which has been rather beneficial for the Coyotes — they started with three league wins at the DakotaDome, then dropped a pair of tight battles to North Dakota State and South Dakota State.