BY JEREMY HOECK
VERMILLION – While the football game day atmosphere at the DakotaDome has seen many changes during the Division I era, one small sight has not changed: The location of the home team.
That will change this season.
In an effort to relocate closer to its fans (among other reasons), the University of South Dakota football team is switching sidelines. The USD bench will now be located on the east side of the field, underneath the permanent seats.
It’s a small change, sure, but one players welcomed.
“I think it’s huge for us,” junior safety Jacob Warner said after Tuesday’s practice.
And for a program looking to develop a foothold in the FCS ranks, anything the Coyotes can do to help the turn tide, they’ll jump at the opportunity, Warner added. Since head coach Joe Glenn took over in 2011, the program is 6-10 in games played in Vermillion – there was also a home loss in Sioux Falls.
“Every little advantage matters in college football, especially for us for as many close games we’ve been in,” Warner said. “Every little bit helps toward getting those wins.”
And if that means switching sidelines to create some sort of a spark at home, it was an option worth pursuing, Glenn said Tuesday.
“I think our guys wanted to feel the home crowd,” said Glenn, whose Coyotes (1-1) open their home schedule Saturday against Drake.
Historically, the Coyote bench had been on that east side. But when Ed Meierkort took over the program in 2004, USD moved over to the west end, underneath the student section.
And it’s been that way ever since.
That location, however, has presented some problems: The chain gang is on that side of the field, opposite the press box, and the home team was opposite its locker room and the training room. Additionally, USD coaches in the press box haven’t been able to clearly see what the opposing team trots out for personnel.
“Now they can get the calls in faster for us,” Warner said.
Naturally, there were some logistics involved with switching the sidelines.
Junior running back Trevor Bouma was among a group of players who approached Glenn about moving, and from there, the topic went to athletic director David Herbster.
“I’m really excited we got it done,” Bouma said. “I can’t thank coach and Mr. Herbster enough for getting that done.”
While where the Coyotes stand won’t exactly lead to undefeated records at home, the buzz created from big plays could help if the players are directly underneath their fans, Bouma said.
“I like being in front of our home crowd, but it seems like whenever we make plays, it’s just in front of the student section,” he said. “Now we’ll be able to do that in front of our home crowd and our parents.”