Full interview with Justin Sell

Chris Mangan

Chris Mangan

Sports Editor Chris Mangan sits down with Athletic Director Justin Sell to talk about his time at SDSU, the Dakota Marker game and the Hobo Day football game against Sell’s former employer, Northern Iowa.

Chris Mangan: You’ve been here about six months, what has it been like for you?

Justin Sell: I absolutely love this place. It has been a whirlwind some days but at the same time it feels like I have been five years. I think a lot of that is because I felt so comfortable through the process to begin with. The things that I felt about the institution, about what we do academically, how successful we are as an athletic program and then for me personally with my family, bringing my family to town towards the end of July and getting the kids in school, there is a comfort level there for me that, has not only shown itself through the whole process, it has gotten stronger every day. I love the students on our campus, there is momentum around here, and there is excitement. We have a lot of positive things going. I spoke all over the state this summer to a variety of different groups and we have a lot of really good supporters, a lot of really good fans, a lot of really good student athletes and what makes it special or unique is they are behind this institution. Athletics is just one piece that, obviously, gives people some pride and something to cheer in.

CM: What has been your favorite part about your time here?

JS: I think the opportunity to get to know what SDSU is about and then working with the people, like I said all those different groups. I love our student athletes. I think they are good people first. They do a great job in the classroom. We had a 3.15 overall GPA last year, which is high for athletics across the country; it’s high for student population frankly. I’m really proud of that. It’s in majors like engineering and pharmacy and pre-med biology and all those things. It’s not your typical “I’m in a bunch of gym classes” type majors it’s real stuff. Move in weekend was a blast, I went and helped out with that. To see freshmen coming on campus and kind of got excited about that. You know, the people I work with here on campus, we have great leadership. I think President (David) Chicoine has a great vision for what SDSU is and is going to be. I’m just happy to be part of that.

CM: You had an architect do a feasibility study on a new football stadium, what is the status on that?

JS: Actually, I’m trying to coach people to understand that we are doing a master plan for all of our athletic facilities first and within that master plan we are looking at the financial feasibility of a football stadium. It’s really gathering all the information, really putting a vision together of what it would look like and then, based on needs, what do we really need. The beauty with our area is that we are not into cherry wood gold trim; we need nice, effective space. You know, Coughlin, based on our crowds there is certainly a demand there for more seats than what we can provide. That will really layout what it would look like and then, hopefully, what the costs are. Then we need to define a funding plan of how we can go about doing that then we need to go out and do that. Hopefully, people want to jump on board and support.

CM: You experienced your first Dakota Marker game last week, how was that for you?

JS: I’m still coming down off the high and here we are Tuesday morning. I had a blast. I had a blast leading up into it. I was ready to play the game Thursday night; I didn’t want to wait until Saturday. You hear all the stories, and certainly it’s a tradition and rivalry, and we have had great success against North Dakota State in the last couple years. I certainly didn’t want to lose the trophy on my watch, even though I didn’t anything to do with the outcome of the game per say. I’m really proud of Coach Stig (John Stiegelmeier), I’m really proud of our players. To have the student support the first three games, to come every game and kids are getting their early, that whole section is filling up, they are all around that south end. I’m trying to make it around games and introduce myself, shake some hands, say “Hey”, but I really do appreciate our students.

CM: Hobo Day this weekend against your former employer, what are you looking forward to the most?

JS: Beating the Panthers. I would love to have an opportunity to beat the Panthers. I think, for me, to experience Hobo Day first and it’s a whole week, my schedule is packed this week, so I’m really excited to go through that the first time. Throw in UNI on the schedule, obviously, makes it a more special week. I know I’ve got a lot of friends and people that I knew at UNI that are going to come up here. They travel well and they will for this one because, obviously, it’s a really big game. We are having some fun with it this week, at least for me with my former folks. I have a lot of respect for what UNI has accomplished, obviously, that is one of the things we are trying to do with this program to gain some of the successes UNI has had but we want to do it in our own way. We know who we are and we are proud of who we are, the only thing missing right now is the opportunity to get to the postseason with all of our sports programs. We got a great taste for it last fall with soccer and then in the spring with women’s basketball. I would like all our student athletes, at least one time in their career’s here, to be able to taste postseason play.

CM: What needs to be done to take SDSU to the next step?

JS: Truthfully, people have the belief we can do it and we are not that far away. It also takes every person. Anyone that cares about what we are at SDSU, we need their support. I think that goes from a university perspective but it is certainly from an athletics’ perspective. Whether it’s just going out and telling someone how great it is on campus, or that you can feel the momentum or that you are really excited about the building progress, buying a ticket to a game, joining the Jackrabbit Club, doing somethings to financially support us, helping out with the facility side. Those are the things over the next couple of years that are going to be critical for us to be able to maintain our success long term. I come into a place that has already had a great base of success so the beauty is that we don’t have to turn it all around or turn it over. We have to refine a few things, we have to redefine our thinking. Then lastly, when it happens, not if, but when it happens to be able to capitalize and take advantage of growth opportunities through success.