Rivalry Renewed

Drue Aman

Drue Aman

Perhaps a few fans looked at the women’s schedule this season and saw: Mon., Feb. 15: South Dakota – Frost Arena – 7 p.m. and began looking for the right words to say, but the words never came. Speechlessness is a common side effect of overwhelming excitement.

South Dakota? The University of South Dakota? The Coyotes? We haven’t played them in years.

Right; we have not. In fact, an overwhelming populace of current students at SDSU has never seen a Coyote uniform on campus. Instead, we only hear the same stories regurgitated repeatedly. The stories about dead rabbits and dead coyotes thrown on the court (a rather profound exercise in symbolism but more certainly grotesque and inappropriate), about profane T-shirts that served as fan uniforms for the evening and about ravenous Jacks fans who crammed themselves into The Barn like sardines and rattled cow bells to create a deafening game environment. Yes, the rivalry picked up some theatrics and some passionate fury for the opposing school over the years.

Then, we went through the challenging phase of entering Division I. The rivalry has been nonexistent since. “SDSU vs. USD” last took place Feb. 28, 2004, and that was in Vermillion – a game SDSU won. Actually, USD has not entered Frost Arena since Jan. 9, 2004, a game in which the No. 7 Jacks beat the No. 4 Coyotes by 16.

On Feb. 15, the beginning of a new era in the in-state rivalry begins, and Athletic Director Justin Sell loves the opportunity.

“The beauty is we get a chance to start from scratch in a sense of respecting the old tradition of the rivalry but hopefully bringing some new things to it,” said Sell.

The new “things” are this: two schools bigger than ever, with teams with more talent than ever. The Jacks have had six full seasons of Division-I style recruiting and last year won 32 games in their first season of tournament eligibility. They routed Texas Christian University before losing in the late seconds to Baylor in the second round that year. By the way, TCU and Baylor are both 17-5 this season, and Baylor is ranked No. 17 as of Feb. 7. The USD women have had success on the court recently as well, making the Division II Championship in 2008 but losing to Northern Kentucky by five.

The rivalry also helps both schools in a budgetary sense.

“As far as budgets go, it’s an easy travel,” said Sell. “You can sell a ton of tickets so from a revenue standpoint, in a way this is a good game.”

For this game, 1,500 tickets are reserved for students at SDSU. As of Feb. 7, 1,200 of those have been sold, with more sales a certainty – something Sell thinks accurately represents the quality of support of full-time students for the Jacks.

“I’ve been very impressed,” said Sell. “Since I got here the support at football games, at basketball games, even at swimming and soccer and some of our other sports – we have a lot of students supporting the kids, and they’ve done it in a very first-class manner.”

After six years of dormancy against USD and a budding rivalry with competitive teams in NDSU, Oral Roberts and Oakland and the rest of the Summit League, Feb. 15’s game will serve as a form of exercise to Jacks fans, students and players; an exercise to remind everyone of the true nature of the rivalry we have heard so much about.

“I think it’s going to be a great game,” said Sell. “If people would get past throwing rabbits and coyotes on the floors and getting back to the focus of the game and school pride – that’s what Division-I athletics are all about ? and then it’s certainly special because it’s an in-state rivalry.”