BY JEREMY HOECK
According to the figures released by the NCAA, college football set a record in 2013 for total attendance across all levels — from Football Bowl Subdivision on down to the Division III ranks.
And regionally, the Missouri Valley Football Conference was one of three FCS leagues to break its attendance record.
Of course, when you have the likes of North Dakota State, the three-time defending national champion, leading the way, it’s no surprise.
The Bison played in front of an average of 18,622 fans per home game last season, including the playoffs. That ranks NDSU seventh among all FCS schools, which is far and away the highest number in the Missouri Valley.
Youngstown State and Northern Iowa, ranked 16 and 18, respectively, followed by South Dakota State in the top 25.
Though it set a new league record for overall attendance at 664,775 last fall, the Missouri Valley ranked third among FCS leagues for game averages. The Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) led the way with a 12,415 average, followed by the Southern Conference at 11,623.
Missouri Valley schools drew an average of 10,722 fans per home game, which was a decrease of nearly 350 from the previous season.
Interestingly, a number of FCS schools out-drew their FBS counterparts. For example, Eastern Michigan had the lowest average attendance among the top-level programs at 4,051 — it would rank last in the Missouri Valley.
North Dakota State, meanwhile, drew more fans last season than 21 FBS schools.
The University of South Dakota drew 48,568 fans over six home games last season, for an average of 8,095. Numbers were, again, rather up and down at the DakotaDome.
USD had 8,012 fans for its season opener against UC Davis, and then had 9,758 fans at its homecoming game against Missouri State. From there, the Coyotes had attendances of 6,710 and 6,676 and 6,567 before a sellout crowd of 10,845 for South Dakota State.
Consistency, obviously, is the key in Vermillion. Fans have proven they will come out to ‘big’ games, but the ‘average’ games are not reaching the 7,000 threshold. That’s the next step for a school that wants to expand its home football seating.
Here are the top 10 FCS leaders by average:
1. Appalachian State (24,894)
2. Montana (24,380)
3. James Madison (21,011)
4. Southern (20,107)
5. Yale (19,809)
6. Montana State (19,704)
7. North Dakota State (18,622)
8. Delaware (18,108)
9. Jackson State (17,286)
10. Jacksonville State (15,814)
The rest of the MVFC schools by average
16. Youngstown State (13,506)
18. Northern Iowa (12,572)
25. South Dakota State (10,694)
26. Illinois State (10,139)
NR. Missouri State (8,700)
NR. Southern Illinois (8,554)
NR. South Dakota (8,095)
NR. Western Illinois (5,525)
NR. Indiana State (5,422)
BY JEREMY HOECK
No coach will tell you they’re disappointed with a recruiting class.
Just as no athlete will tell you they don’t like where they’re headed.
It’s within that paradox that it becomes hard to evaluate a list of recruits. Ninety percent of them aren’t likely to see the field their freshman year, unless of course you’re a transfer — then, it’s pretty much part of the deal that they’re an immediate impact guy.
And so, it becomes hard to not have a ‘positive’ recruiting story. You can’t sit here and nit-pick about a kid a school didn’t get, because a) this isn’t the SEC where flip-flopping is part of the deal, and b) the true ‘success’ of the class cannot be felt for at least three years.
Even for a recruiting nerd like me, you have to simply find some underlying themes to get at. Was there a large contingent of players from one area? Were there siblings recruited? Did such and such a player sign with a school after committing to another?
With Wednesday’s recruiting class for the University of South Dakota, a consistent theme seemed to pop up between the three high school kids I spoke to over the phone, and later heard from the Coyote coaches at a gathering in Yankton.
Put simply, the Coyotes can’t ‘sell’ a kid on post-season success; can’t show off a championship trophy or detail consecutive playoff appearances. What USD can do, however, is sell a kid on the potential.
In two years under head coach Joe Glenn, the Coyotes have improved from one win to four last season. Mixed in during the 2013 campaign were a handful of narrow defeats, and Glenn talked Wednesday night about those missing pieces that could help fill in the gaps.
And by the way those players talked, they’re ready for the challenge of leading the program closer to an FCS playoff appearance.
“They haven’t had the best luck, but I’m sure the tables will turn quickly,” said wide receiver recruit Tacari Carpenter of Oak Lawn, Ill. “I can see the future coming; something is going to happen there.”
What that is, nobody knows, but at least there seems to be an upward trend. A program sliding backward would certainly find it harder to attract high-quality recruits.
“They had so many chances even last year to win more games, but they’re going in the right direction,” said Nick Jensen, an offensive lineman from Vermillion.
I’m not about to say the Coyotes will crack the playoff field in 2014 (take a look at their schedule), but I could conceivably see by year five of the Glenn era that the program is in the mix.
“They might get to the playoffs, and that’s definitely what I want to help them do,” said Winner defensive lineman Kray Krolikowski.
Let’s get to some news and notes from USD’s recruiting class, and from Wednesday night’s presentation in Yankton:
• First, an item not really related to recruiting, but that will definitely have an impact. Leading receiver Terrance Terry, who had a year of eligibility left, will graduate this spring and will not play football this fall, according to Glenn.
• Shay Bratland (Watertown) was the fastest kid in USD’s summer camp last season, coaches said.
• Paul Anderson (West Park, Fla.) is the son of Jamaican parents
• Chris Tyler (Iowa Western CC) and Eric Shufford (San Bernardino Valley) are two transfers that are already on campus
• The video of long snapper Brandon Godsey (Raymore, Mo.) elicited a nice applause from the crowd. That was an area of concern last season.
• Ethan Fenchel (Hull, Iowa) is a nationally-ranked discus thrower and could very well break the Iowa state record this spring. Coaches said he could reach the 200-feet mark.
• Adam Harris (West Des Moines, Iowa) moved from his native Florida to Iowa for his senior season last fall. Coyotes beat out another Iowa school for his services.
• Noah Roberts (Yorkville, Ill.) played for coach Don Beebe in high school. Yes, THAT Don Beebe.
• Bailey Sutko (Kansas City, Mo.) is currently the top-ranked wrestler in Missouri’s Class 3 rankings. The Coyotes like those wrestlers because of their physicality, according to defensive coordinator Jason Petrino.
• Another of the trends among the 30 recruits is a handful of multi-position kids. Glenn said one of his philosophies is to recruit the best athletes because “you can find a spot for them.”
• One geographic area the Coyotes have not had much success in is Sioux City, Iowa, according to Glenn. “And I’m not really sure why.” He did, however, point to the Omaha metro area as a success this year.
BY JEREMY HOECK
Tacari Carpenter knows nothing is guaranteed a true freshman. But that’s fine with him.
“I’m all about working hard and earning my spot,” said Carpenter, a 6-foot receiver from Oak Lawn, Ill., a suburb of Chicago.
A highly-pursued recruit by a number of Division I programs, Carpenter chose to sign with the University of South Dakota on Wednesday. Carpenter was joined in USD’s 30-man class by high school teammate Dylan Jiles, a defensive back.
Head coach Joe Glenn called Carpenter the “real deal” in Wednesday’s release.
“We identified Tacari as a game-changing receiver from the get go,” Glenn said. “He is one of the top receivers to come out of Illinois and he can factor into our return game as well.”
Carpenter spoke with the Press & Dakotan about his signing.
Had to be a pretty big day at your high school with you and Dylan both signing with USD, didn’t it?
“Yeah for sure. Dylan is pretty much my best friend. He plays safety and I’m a receiver, and we like to comepte against each other. We’re like brothers, I basically stay at his house all the time, so why not go to school together?”
What did you like about USD?
“All the coaches are great. My official (visit) was two weeks ago, and I saw a lot of things. I liked USD before that, but I committed that Sunday. It sold me. All the things I pictured it being, it was.”
What did the coaches tell you?
“They want me to come in right away, to put me in the best position to make plays. It’s up to me to do that. They want me to be a true freshman and do what I can. Dreams don’t come true sometimes, I have to do what I can. I’m not just going to take what the coaches tell me, I’m all about working hard and earning my spot.”
What stood out about USD’s program?
“You can see the coaches love it. They put everything into it, and the school loves the team. They didn’t have the best season, but I’m sure they will be coming up. They just want to win. They haven’t had the best luck, but I’m sure the tables will turn quickly. I can see the future coming; something is going to happen there.”
How about potentially playing your first game at Oregon?
“That’s one of the games I’ve been waiting on my whole life. That’s what my dad told me. I want to make plays; I want to be noticed. I’m ready. Not many schools have that competitive schedule, but win or lose, they want the best.”
Whoever said that there is no substitute for experience must have been looking at the women’s basketball standings in the Great Plains Athletic Conference. In the women’s standings, there is a direct correlation between point production out of freshmen and sophomores and rank in the league.
The two teams that get less than 20 percent of their points from underclassmen, Northwestern (15 percent) and Hastings (18 percent) rank first and second in the conference. (Northwestern has not had a freshman score a varsity point this season.) The third and fourth place teams, Concordia (23.4 percent) and Dakota Wesleyan (22.6 percent) rank fourth and third in underclassmen production.
At the other end of the scale, the teams ranking 1-2-3 in underclassmen production — Nebraska Wesleyan (91.4 percent), Mount Marty (66.1 percent) and Doane (58.1 percent) — are 11th, 10th and ninth in the league.
The correlation is not nearly as strong on the men’s side, with top-ranked Dordt having the fifth-most underclassmen production (47.6 percent), thanks to a couple all-conference level freshmen. But the second and third place teams in the league, Hastings (4.7 percent) and Midland (4.3 percent), rank 10th and 11th in underclassmen production.
On this chart, Mount Marty is in the middle of the pack at 41 percent. A more accurate description on the men’s side might be points from seniors, where the Lancers would rank last because they have none.
The moral of this story is, as University of South Dakota football coach Joe Glenn would put it, the Lancers “need birthdays.” And, in the case of the women, to get healthy again.
Here is the full chart, if you’d like to see it.
On Saturday night, I had the pleasure of covering the Hanson Corn Palace Classic for the first time. (It only took me 21 years to have that weekend not have a home game for either Yankton or Mount Marty.)
The Crofton girls crossed the border to take on a team many consider to be the top girls’ basketball team in South Dakota, outside the AA ranks, St. Thomas More. Coming into the game, I felt that More’s length and athleticism could give Crofton fits, and it did early on. But Crofton pulled away in the second half for a 55-39 victory.
After seeing this very good matchup — it was a 5-point game entering the fourth quarter — and seeing the large Crofton contingent that made the trip to Mitchell for the game, I am hoping my good friends at Hanson will try to make Crofton’s visit an annual occurrence.
While more and more teams are taking advantage of the 2002 season switch — most kids in school now have never seen fall girls’ basketball or winter volleyball — to play outside the state limits, it is still a bit of a novelty. Yankton has not played an out-of-state varsity basketball game in years, and just under half of the 36 other high schools we cover play an out-of-state opponent in basketball. (And that was counting the Crofton boys’ game against a team from Australia last month.) Of the 19 schools that play out-of-state opponents in basketball, four only have a boys’ or girls’ game, but not both.
With the challenges of scheduling opponents, I think crossing the border would be a natural progression. I know not all our area schools will make this choice: schools like Parkston and Creighton are a ways from the border, though Parkston goes to Creighton for a wrestling tournament every year.
I have said on a few occasions that Yankton would make a great place for such a classic, bringing South Dakota and Nebraska teams together for matchups that fans would not see much elsewhere. With Yankton’s competition moratorium — YHS will not compete over the Christmas break — it would be a great way to draw fans into the Summit Center … or Cimpl Arena for that matter. MMC put on such a boys’ holiday classic when I first started at the paper, but it faded away in the late 90s.
Yankton would also be a great site for a good inter-state track meet, wrestling tournament or cross country meet. Golf would be hard because of the differences between the seasons in Nebraska and South Dakota. You see plenty of teams cross the border for the Roger Haas Tournament and the Yankton Soccer Invitational, so bringing school-sponsored teams here would be a logical next step.
The challenge, of course, would be finding a way to get schools to break away from their “traditional schedules.” A lot of schools go to the same events year after year, and starting a new event can be a challenge. But hopefully we’ll see some more inter-state showdowns in the future, event if they’re not in Yankton.