New story in mind for rivalry

Travis Kriens

Travis Kriens

On Feb. 15, something will happen for the first time in six years. USD and SDSU will play basketball against each other.

What used to be the state’s most heated rivalry will get reignited that Monday night, as the women tip off at 7:05 p.m. at Frost Arena in front of an expected sell-out and rowdy crowd. Most of these fans will be wearing yellow and blue.

Ask anyone who has been to games in the past, and you will be sure to hear stories of dead animals thrown on the court and T-shirts with suggestive messages, along with some rated-R language.

That was the past, and SDSU Athletic Director Justin Sell sees a different future.

“I think that our goals are to make sure that we have the opportunity to respect the tradition of the rivalry and hopefully build on it,” said Sell. “But build on it in a positive manner with sportsmanship being the key principal to it.

“Ultimately, it’s our student athletes that are deciding the outcome of the game. We need our fans to be able to step up and support our team in a positive way and make it a great home environment.”

There will be even more exposure than usual due to the long gap between meetings between the two biggest schools in the state, with the game being televised throughout the Upper Midwest and with Summit League commissioner Tom Douple in attendance.

“We have great students on this campus,” said Sell. “They’ve been really supportive and have done it in the right way. I hope they don’t take the USD game and have everyone see that as an image of what SDSU and our students are by doing something stupid.”

The SDSU Student-Athlete Advisory Committee will be handing out T-shirts at the game to promote sportsmanship in light of shirts being made that bash USD.

USD Student Government Association President Blake Alberts said that some USD fans will have some “Hate State” shirts, but that it is all in good fun.

“Those are traditions that I think people like,” said Alberts. “I hope that students at the other school don’t take it personally. It’s just one of those traditions that have been around for so long that I don’t think the people want to see it lost, at least at USD anyway.”

Alberts also said that there is definitely excitement around the game. The SGA purchased a block of 100 tickets from the SDSU ticket office to sell to students and will provide a free bus ride for students up to the game.

“The real strength of the rivalry for South Dakota kids is that everyone at State has friends at USD and everyone at USD has friends at State,” said Alberts. “Regardless of the game, there’s going to be consistent jarring about the schools. We like to let each other know whose school is better.”

While the Jacks have been dominant in recent past – they won six of the last seven meetings with USD, including 15 in a row at Frost dating back to 1991 – SDSU head coach Aaron Johnston says that the future of the rivalry depends on the quality of play.

“It depends on how each team does. I remember when I first came into it, SDSU had had the upper hand quite a bit in women’s basketball,” he said. “It wasn’t just a rivalry deal. It was about a good basketball game with the rivalry on top of it.”

With USD joining the Summit League in the 2011-12 season, it will join NDSU as the Jacks’ two biggest rivals. While the past cannot be changed, Sell sees no reason why the future of the rivalry cannot be different.

“There isn’t a reason, besides the pure joy of competing and wanting to win, why we can’t respect them or shake their hands after the game and move on,” Sell said. “That’s my hope as we move down the road, because if we do that, I think it can flourish into being a great rivalry and series.”