BY JEREMY HOECK
On first glance, there were no real surprises in the Sports Network preseason FCS top-25 poll that was released Friday. (Spoiler alert: I’m a voter).
Perennial title contender Eastern Washington was selected No. 1 (where I tabbed the Eagles), followed by three-time defending national champion North Dakota State. Southeastern Louisiana, New Hampshire and Montana rounded out the top 10.
The Missouri Valley Football Conference also had three other teams crack the top 25: Northern Iowa (9), South Dakota State (10) and Youngstown State (24). In all, the league had nine of its 10 teams receiving a vote in the preseason poll.
The lone exception?
The University of South Dakota.
Yes, the Coyotes — coming off a 4-8 campaign — did not an earn a vote from the national panel. USD was picked to finish eighth in the Missouri Valley preseason poll, ahead of Western Illinois and Indiana State.
Yet, in the Sports Network poll, Western Illinois garnered five votes, Missouri State five votes and Indiana State one vote (really curious who that was. The Sycamores were 1-11 a year ago).
It’s really hard to take issue with a preseason poll, because as a voter, trust me, you’re basing most of your selections on what happened last year. You know the teams in the league you cover, and likely a little about some of the other top-25 staples. But beyond that, any research done — and yes, I do occasional research! — is rudimentary at best.
At least, though, when you look at the two major preseason FCS polls (the coaches poll and Sports Network), there isn’t too much in the way of noticeable differences.
The top five teams in both polls are the same, with NDSU the No. 1 team in the eyes of coaches. South Dakota State, for example, is No. 10 in both, while Youngstown State was No. 21 in the coaches poll Northern Iowa was slated No. 15 in the coaches poll.
Here comes the part where you say preseason polls don’t matter. Teams left out, like USD, will understandably use these polls, though, as bulletin board material. Expect the Coyotes to keep this in mind.
BY JEREMY HOECK
Here are some athletic-related things in the Yankton area that could attract some kind of national attention:
• Division I football or basketball at South Dakota State or the University of South Dakota.
And that’s probably it.
Now, can you name any sport that would attract international attention?
The short answer is no, unless archery came to mind. Then you’d be right.
This isn’t a ‘rah-rah archery is fun, try it!’ speech, because frankly I don’t shoot a bow, but let’s not kid ourselves: Yankton, South Dakota (population of nearly 14,500) is firmly on the international radar when it comes to archery.
(My coverage of archery can be found here)
Especially over the past two months.
Back in June, Yankton was informed that it will host the 2015 World Youth Championships — beating out, for one, Mexico City. The week-long tournament will bring approximately 600 youth archers from 60 countries, and is expected to be viewed and followed by millions of people online (or through other viewing options).
Now comes late July, when Yankton hosts the National Field Archery Association (NFAA) Outdoor National Championships. This event is no stranger to our community; Yankton has hosted it many times in the past. But it’s still worth mentioning that the top professionals in the world — the most recognizable names & faces in this sport — all shot here.
That 5-day tournament gave way Monday to the International Field Archery Association (IFAA) World Field Championships, another 5-day event that brings archers from 17 countries. To be fair, these aren’t the ‘best’ archers in the world, but that matters little.
It’s easy to get lost in the alphabet soup that is annual archery tournaments in Yankton, but when you see Australia, England, Deutschland, India and South Africa on the back of someone’s shirt, you realize who you’re surrounded by.
I’ve told friends this before, but I couldn’t think of anything else; any other sports assignment I could cover, that would involve this kind of a collection. Unless, say, I was sent to the Olympics or a World Cup some day.
All of those foreign archers were gathered together for Sunday night’s opening ceremonies, and it was hard not to stand there in awe of the representation around you. These aren’t high school track athletes; these are kids from literally halfway around the globe who have likely never talked to an American in person.
(Some of the youth shooters I talked to Sunday had never even left their home country. And some of whom had traveled 30-plus hours to get to Yankton).
And on that note, Yankton should consider itself lucky to have such an international tournament, because let’s be honest, it’s not an easy place to get to. You have to fly into Sioux Falls or likely Omaha, and drive here. It may not seem like a huge obstacle for us, but trust me, it is for someone from Australia.
And still, the thing is: The Yankton community is still slowly starting to realize what exactly it has out there at 800 Archery Lane.
Sure, youth clubs — among them, the Junior Olympic Archery Development (JOAD) teams and the Yankton Youth Archery Instruction Program (YAIP) — have started to sprout up, and even Mount Marty College has joined in the fun with a club team.
But still, I know people who probably think nothing of archery.
Truth is, archery is still thought of as a ‘niche’ sport; one that isn’t exactly spectator friendly. The average Yankton citizen is free to wander into the Easton Complex and look around, especially now with the newly-unveiled NFAA museum, but it’s asking a lot for people to see archery in the same way they view football, basketball, volleyball, etc.
But make no mistake, it’s archery that has vaulted Yankton onto the international map. Forget national map, we’re talking global.
I know, from my perspective, it’s easy to get caught up in writing about and taking photos at an archery tournament 10 days in a row (Tuesday marks Day 7!). Taking a step back and looking at it, you truly do feel lucky to be around something like this.
Yes, that’s corny, but we’re pretty darn fortunate.
BY JEREMY HOECK — email@example.com
With four more teams to the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoff field a year ago, the Missouri Valley Football Conference probably could have qualified more than two programs.
Or, in the minds of league officials and coaches, it should have sent more than two.
Commissioner Patty Viverito made clear during Tuesday’s preseason coaches teleconference that the Missouri Valley deserved more than two playoff bids in 2013.
“Having only two teams in an expanded bracket is not OK,” Viverito said. “We have playoff caliber teams not being selected, and that’s not OK.”
Despite the FCS post-season bracket being expanded from 20 to 24 teams last season, the highest-ranked league in the country earned only two bids: North Dakota State and South Dakota State.
Both won at least one game (NDSU captured its third straight national title), but many who follow the league felt Youngstown State was also deserving of an invitation. The Penguins were 8-3 a year ago, despite losing their final three games, which may have hurt their prospects.
That didn’t sit well in Youngstown, according to head coach Eric Wofford.
“I think it’s very clear that we should have three or four teams in,” he said Tuesday. “Everyone knows that; every coach knows that.”
And still, the Valley had two teams in the post-season.
Despite leading the nation in the Gridiron Power Index (GPI), the ranking model that serves as the top indicator for at-large selection, the MVFC had North Dakota State at No. 1, Youngstown State at No. 9, South Dakota State at No. 12 and Northern Iowa at No. 13.
“That’s the thing that’s unfortunately out of our control,” Wofford said.
As for a way to avoid a similar issue in the future, Viverito pointed to two specific ideas: Help the selection committee “understand and respect strength of schedule,” and continue to schedule top-25 non-conference games.
“We’re not doing a lot of that,” she said, referring to the latter. “Getting them on our schedule; that may be the more challenging part, rather than beating them.”
The University of South Dakota, for one, played in 2013 a model similar to the one Viverito suggested. The Coyotes lost close games to Northern Arizona and Montana, both top-25 and playoff-bound teams out of the Big Sky Conference.
USD head coach Joe Glenn, who previously coached in the Big Sky, was quick to point out that a difference between that league and the Missouri Valley was easy to see late in the season – when the Coyotes played Montana and North Dakota State in consecutive weeks.
“There was no comparison. None whatsoever,” Glenn said.
By that point, USD had also completed its conference schedule (at 3-5), and was able to reflect back on a 6-point loss at Northern Arizona. “And they weren’t as good as people in our league,” Glenn added.
The first Valley coach to talk at length about – and offer a proposal to bolster — the league’s playoff chances was Mark Farley at Northern Iowa.
He suggested that perhaps the league should split into two divisions to have two league champions, and then a third team could possibly earn an at-large bid to the post-season.
“We need to plan ahead and project some possibilities of what we can do to get a third or fourth team in,” Farley said. “Scheduling is a big part of that.”
Viverito was asked about the possibility of splitting the league into two 5-team divisions as Farley suggested, and she wasn’t in favor in playing fewer games.
“I have a hard time envisioning how that logic helps us,” the commissioner added.
BY JEREMY HOECK
VERMILLION — As work continues on a number of athletic-related facility updates at the University of South Dakota, the two biggest projects will be turned over to contractors on Monday.
Mortenson Construction, based in Minneapolis, will assume control of the grounds for a $66 million project at USD that includes a 6,000-seat basketball and volleyball arena, an outdoor track and soccer complex, and an academic laboratory.
That doesn’t, however, mean that Mortenson will have workers on site Monday to begin moving ground, according to USD athletic director David Herbster.
“Anything on our end that we need to remove and get ready, we’ve done that,” he said Thursday.
The timetable for construction remains on schedule, according to Lorin Wilcox, the project manager and building engineer for USD’s Facilities Management staff. The track and soccer complex is set for a 2015 completion, while the arena will be ready for use by 2016.
“What they choose to do with that (Monday) is up to them,” Wilcox said. “We’re more concerned with the end date, which they’ll meet.”
The bids for the track and soccer complex were due in Pierre on Thursday, and the first bid packages for the arena were sent out Thursday as well, Wilcox said.
From there, Mortensen will sort through the bids and award subcontractors for both projects.
Those are not the only athletic-related updates underway at USD, however, Herbster said:
• New metal football bleachers on the west end of the DakotaDome are being installed, with a completion date of Aug. 15,
• The lockers in the soccer and swimming/diving locker rooms were replaced,
• The DakotaDome pool has been off-line since June so it can be resurfaced, Herbster said, and
• A new Daktronics scoreboard will be installed out at the main softball field.
“These are upgrades that have been on our books for a while,” Herbster said, “but there will always be a priority.”
USD has tried to tackle smaller projects every year, he added. In 2011, for example, the permanent seats in the DakotaDome were replaced and a new basketball court was purchased.
Many of the projects, though, such as the new locker rooms and resurfaced pool are not ones the general public would notice, Herbster said.
As of Tuesday, the “lazy days” of summer are officially over.
Beginning today our local sports calendar begins to resemble a jigsaw puzzle — a lot of pieces that all have to fall into place.
It begins today with Yankton Post 12 hosting its Region 2A American Legion baseball tournament. Yankton’s Junior Legion baseball team heads to state in Aberdeen, beginning on Wednesday. Area Class B amateur baseball districts begin on Wednesday and Thursday.
And then the real fun begins.
American Legion baseball will take center stage in Tabor, host of the Class B tournament, beginning on Friday. Also on Friday, the Thrivent Financial Pro-Am golf tournament begins a run of the Dakotas Tour taking over Yankton courses for eight of 10 days.
As the state champion is crowned in Tabor, the local archery range will be heating up with the first of 10 straight days of major tournaments. The National Field Archery Association’s outdoor championships begin July 30 in Yankton, followed immediately by the International Field Archery Association’s World Championships. (Yes, I said “World Championships.”)
One day later, the crown jewel of the Dakotas Tour, the Hillcrest Invitational Pro-Am, takes to Hillcrest Golf and Country Club. The annual event has typically had the biggest championship payout on the independent tour.
As the calendar flips to August, baseball again takes the stage in Yankton, as the South Dakota State VFW Teener Class AA 13-14 Majors Tournament is at Riverside Field, the final major event at the park before work begins on the new artificial turf infield.
By the time all of this excitement ends on Aug. 8, a lot of people will have come through Yankton, even more than this summer vacation location is accustomed to. There will be a lot of great competition and a lot of fun to be had as this summer draws to a close.
Time to sit back and enjoy the ride … or in my case, get ready to be really busy. Either way, it’s going to be a fun couple of weeks.