Senior athletes who remained true to SDSU deserve recognition

Heather Mangan

Heather Mangan

The Jackrabbits had already cemented a 30-point lead against North Dakota State Feb. 23 when Megan Vogel left the game with two-and-a-half minutes remaining. It was the lone senior’s last game at Frost Arena, and as she walked to the sideline, the crowd erupted in a standing ovation and the student section chanted, “Thank you, Megan.”

It was the goodbye she deserved.

Vogel was a godsend for SDSU’s transition to Division I. She helped the women’s team prove that SDSU could be competitive in Division-I athletics. But she didn’t do it alone. Every senior athlete was an integral part in SDSU’s smooth transition.

When SDSU announced it was going to pursue life beyond the North Central Conference into a uncertain future in D-I, many didn’t think the Jackrabbits had any chance of succeeding and encouraged the state’s largest university to just stay put. But the administration didn’t listen and plowed through, determined to make SDSU a better school with a better athletic department.

Last fall, that hard work shined through when SDSU was invited to the Mid-Continent Conference.

Former President Peggy Miller, Athletic Director Fred Oien and the entire athletic department were crucial parts of making the smooth transition, but the unsung heroes were the athletes.

The athletes were the ones who had to show they could be competitive at D-I. That meant more competitive teams, longer bus rides and, sometimes, disappointing loss after disappointing loss.

In three short years, SDSU has had some great athletic accomplishments – the football team ending the 2006 season ranked 21st and beating six Bowl Championship Series teams, and the women’s basketball team ending their season 21-5 and getting dangerously close to a Women’s National Invitational Tournament bid.

But take a look at records for Jackrabbit softball, tennis, swimming and some of the other minority sports. Oh, and let’s not forget the ever-so-embarrassing 5-23 men’s basketball record. The transition isn’t so easy for them.

For those sports, it hurts to lose game after game to opponents who are faster, stronger and just better. The less-publicized sports don’t get their own Daktronics video scoreboard and they have to drive to faraway contests instead of flying. And frankly, success in programs other than basketball and football have been put on the back burner.

But the athletes keep with it. They continue to play in good times and bad. They wear the blue and yellow proudly, through victory and defeat. They could have transferred to the University of South Dakota or Augustana College and been pretty successful at D-II, but they didn’t.

Anyone who calls himself or herself a Jackrabbit fan needs to understand that SDSU at D-I wouldn’t have survived without these athletes.

The senior athletes have carried SDSU on their backs, trying to reach D-I prosperity, and they deserve recognition. Not just standouts like Megan Vogel, but every athlete on every team who has seen SDSU in Division I and Division II. The transition isn’t over yet, but without them, the first few years wouldn’t have gone so well.

So to all the athletes who kept believing, thank you. Thank you for cementing SDSU’s future in D-I athletics.