BY JEREMY HOECK
A scheduled home football game for the University of South Dakota with the defending national champion is moving nearly 70 miles north this fall.
In a bold move to tap into the state’s largest market, USD announced Thursday that it is moving its showdown with last year’s FCS champion North Dakota State to Howard Wood Field in Sioux Falls on Saturday, Oct. 20.
So continues an effort by USD to reach out to the state’s biggest alumni base.
“We’re excited to show people in Sioux Falls what Division I football is like,” athletic director David Sayler said by phone shortly after the press conference in Sioux Falls. “They’ve probably seen it before, but now they’ll really feel it.
“The best way to do that is to bring in a team that has good regional exposure.”
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My first reaction to hearing this news a while back was, “Really?”
As someone has been around the USD circle for 10 years, it’s not exactly a surprise that the school wants to strengthen its foothold — or some might argue, start a foothold — in the state’s largest city. It makes sense, really: Biggest alumni base, more sponsorship opportunities, etc. With the success the Summit League basketball tournaments have had in Sioux Falls, there is no doubt a strong interest for Division I athletics in that city. USD is simply trying to take advantage of that.
On the other hand, I can understand why some people are puzzled by this move. You’re taking arguably your biggest home game of the season and moving away from the DakotaDome, a place where USD has a significant homefield advantage. Remember, the Coyotes upset top-ranked and defending national champion Eastern Washington in Vermillion last fall.
In essence, you’re giving away the biggest home game of the season. North Dakota State, which is unquestionably one of the most well-followed teams in terms of fan support in the region, will no doubt bring with it thousands upon thousands of green and yellow clad fans. Sure, USD’s move to open up tickets to season ticket holders first will help the Coyotes avoid a massive allotment of NDSU fans, but I question the selection of that game in particular. If this is truly a test-the-water kind of experiment, why not start with Illinois State or Western Illinois, see how it goes, and work from there. Maybe move next year’s South Dakota State game there?
What’s to stop Sioux City from stepping up and offering a chance for USD to host Northern Iowa in Sioux City? (Location would be an issue, I know, just an example). Or for that matter, why not hold some sort of basketball exhibition with Mount Marty College over here in Yankton.
Spurred by the success of South Dakota State, USD no doubt wants to increase its exposure across the state; to show that, hey, there are two Division I schools in South Dakota. That’s partly why I understand the rationale behind Thursday’s announcement, to start a tradition of Coyote athletics in Sioux Falls. On the other hand, there are inherent risks with taking games — especially one like North Dakota State — away from your true home, in Vermillion. Improving the gameday atmosphere is something USD needs to tackle first, in my opinion, before trying to cater to alumni bases in cities, no matter how far away they are.
Agree? Disagree? Let us know.