USD opens fall practices Aug. 6

BY JEREMY HOECK
jeremy.hoeck@yankton.net

USD coach Joe Glenn

USD coach Joe Glenn

VERMILLION – It’s been nine months since the last game. And six months since National Signing Day.

For Joe Glenn and his coaching staff at the University of South Dakota, the waiting game is almost over: Fall practices begin today (Thursday) in Vermillion.

As construction work picked up steam this summer in the DakotaDome, the sound emanating from the weight room may not have been as loud as the cranes and drills, but it was a welcome sound.

“I saw our kids work all summer,” Glenn said this week. “The things they went through, they’ve proven to me that they want to win, and do whatever it takes.”

There hasn’t been much talk of last season’s 2-win campaign other than the injuries that again piled up late on the Coyotes, but Glenn has maintained all pre-season that – using one of his favorite adages – “hope springs eternal.”

“They’ve done everything they possibly can to get their bodies and hearts right for the season,” he said.

Barring any unexpected surprises, USD figures to have 95 players (the maximum number allowed) report for today’s first practice at 3:15 p.m. in Vermillion. On Wednesday, players went through meetings (introductory welcome, compliance, academics, etc.) and were issued equipment.

For the freshmen, in particular, there was a lot of information thrown at them right away.

“They’ll get a lot in hurry,” Glenn said. “I like to say, ‘They’ll be drinking out of a fire hydrant.’”

Perhaps more than in any recent season, the incoming freshmen class will likely be counted on for instant impact at certain positions – USD signed a handful of running backs, for example.

Before depth charts get to that point, the staff is just glad to finally see those newcomers take the field with the returning players, Glenn said.

“It’s like a farmer going out to check his crops after some rain,” Glenn said, chuckling.

“The kids have grown a little bit. And when it’s their first time all together, it’s really exciting.”

The Coyotes will have four weeks of preparation heading into the Sept. 5 season opener at Kansas State. Though injuries have derailed the past couple of seasons in Vermillion, optimism doesn’t seem to be an issue.

“Everything doesn’t shake down perfect, but in the end, you go with the guys you have,” Glenn said. “I’m looking forward to it, and I know the kids and the coaches are too.”

Should Mount Marty College add football?

DSC02345 (2)

BY JEREMY HOECK
jeremy.hoeck@yankton.net

I purposely held off on providing an opinion either way.

Until now.

The story I wrote for Tuesday’s Press & Dakotan detailed the issue of Mount Marty College in Yankton potentially adding football. Not that it’s being planned or not being planned, the mission was simple: What would it take? What are the pros and cons? What do the decision-makers think?

Athletic director Chuck Iverson and new president Marc Long were both clear: Football is not in the works right now, but let’s never say never. You can’t completely shut the door on a sport that would clearly increase the enrollment at a small school and would therefore raise the profile of your entire institution.

I didn’t initially intend for that story to be as long as it is (probably 1,800 words), but there were so many angles to consider: Costs, culture, facilities, etc. And I also thought, you know, this is the first time I’ve ever seen football discussed in a public forum like that, and who knows when it will ever come up again. So why not dig deep.

Personally, I’ve been torn over the years on the whole idea of Mount Marty adding football.

Would I like to see it? Of course. Selfishly, what journalist or fan wouldn’t want to spend a Saturday afternoon at a football game? (I’ve been covering college football for a decade now, and there’s nothing that compares to a Saturday at a football game, even if it’s inside at the DakotaDome in Vermillion).

Does it make sense?

Put simply, no.

From every one of those angles, I can’t see how football would work at Mount Marty. If you consider the low end of what it would take to operate a football program, you’re probably talking somewhere around $300,000-400,000. And on the high end, it’d be closer to $800,000. That’s a huge portion of an athletic budget that was last at $1.3 million, according to the information MMC provided to the Department of Education.

And college football at this level (small-school NAIA) isn’t exactly going to net you a giant profit. You’re not going to make enough in gate receipts (people paying to attend your games) or donations to make it self-sustaining. So then you’re stuck in a situation where you’re annually losing money for a program that isn’t likely to succeed any time soon.

And that’s a whole other thing. Football isn’t likely to succeed at Mount Marty College. Look at the most recent Great Plains Athletic Conference school to add football, Dordt College. I’m far from a GPAC football expert, but I can’t ever remember Dordt being a title contender. Not when you’re in a league with Morningside and Northwestern. So then, you’re left with the question, what’s the point?

Some would argue culture.

Football gives you an identity, proponents would argue. Football gives your student population a true college experience, they would say. There’s something missing without football, they would say. But on the other hand, when you’re Mount Marty, with an on-campus population of a couple hundred students, suddenly adding 100 students would certainly revamp your landscape. For good or bad, things would be different. Mount Marty’s student population is 60% female right now, and an influx of, say, 80-100 male students, would not only alter your numbers, but it would present some gender equity concerns. Then, the athletic department would be in a position where it was possibly forced to add a women’s sport to keep the proportions in check. What women’s sport would you add? Cheer and dance?

The addition of football, and in turn, another women’s sport, would put strains on an already maxed out Laddie E Cimpl Arena. You would have teams practicing or using the facility at 2 a.m., or some other random time. There’s not enough room. And with football, you would need an expanded weight room and training space. Cimpl Arena, as it stands right now, can’t accommodate football.

That brings us to the next concern: Facilities.

I’ve made my beliefs on this very clear the past few months. Mount Marty College needs to construct some kind of indoor athletic/wellness center; some kind of facility with an indoor track, space for other teams, and a state-of-the-art weight room. I’m of the belief that such a facility might not be unrealistic, but we’ll have to wait and see if Mount Marty could raise enough money to build a second athletic center. The benefit in Mount Marty’s case, though, would be that it would already have one, and possibly two, football fields to use in Yankton – depending on what the Yankton School District decides in the Crane-Youngworth vs. Williams Field issue.

Those would be the major issues to tackle in a potential decision to add football, and that doesn’t even touch on a significant – in my eyes, the most important – piece to this puzzle: The impact on current Lancer athletic programs.

There’s a lot of work to be done with the current MMC teams, many of which consistently struggle to compete in the GPAC. Long, who began his duties as president on July 15, called baseball the “shining example” in the athletic department, and we’ve already seen what improvements – field turf – can do for that program (more home games, regional exposure, recruits, etc.). There’s also the concern of what message you would be sending your current athletes if you suddenly add football. What would the track program think? What would volleyball think? I can tell you what they’d think: They’d feel slighted. And that was exactly the concern Iverson and Long both separately addressed in my interviews with them; that they would much rather improve the programs in-house before considering adding more.

And so, in my opinion, adding football would be a huge mistake. Financially. Competitively. Logistically.

In every avenue, football would be another struggling program at a college that wants to raise the profile of the programs it already has: From tennis on up to basketball.

If, for example, Mount Marty does construct an athletic fieldhouse and in 10-15 years, its programs are at the point where they’re all regularly competing for GPAC titles, then you could consider it. As Long put it, you could do so from a “position of strength.”

UPDATE: SDABA response letter to SCL

UPDATE: I received an email Tuesday from the South Dakota Amateur Baseball Association, which states this letter was not in fact written by president Dale Weber (could be that it was copied from an email to commissioners) and does not constitute the “official” response from the SDABA. The official response to the South Central League was in a letter dated July 10. 

BY JEREMY HOECK
jeremy.hoeck@yankton.net

The official response is in.

Dale Weber, the president of the South Dakota Amateur Baseball Association (SDABA), penned a 2-page hand-written letter to the South Central League (SCL), in response to the league’s frustrations over the disbursement of bids for the 2015 State Class B Amateur Baseball Tournament.

The crux of the SCL’s irritation? That one final spot out of the 32-team state tournament field was drawn out of a hat, and eventually awarded to District 4 (Cornbelt League) – that league will now send six of its nine teams to state, the highest percentage among the state’s seven Class B districts. The South Central League, meanwhile, will send four of its eight – 50 percent, which is the lowest in the state.

The Press & Dakotan detailed the issue in a June 25 commentary, and nearly a full month later, the SCL managers were provided an official response.

You can read the letter for yourself, but the bottom line is this: Nothing will change for the 2015 state tournament, Aug. 5-16 in Mitchell. It wasn’t likely to change. The real focus for the SCL is now on the 2016 state tournament, and the hope that a sense of equality and logic enters into the discussion.