Ring for the Jackrabbits

Lucinda Albers

Lucinda Albers

On any given game night, Jackrabbit fans pack into the Frost Arena or Coughlin Alumni Stadium to enjoy another hopping SDSU game. During the winter, you can always see SDSU sweatshirts and hats and during the summer, fans are covered in State t-shirts and blue and yellow body paint. But one factor that remains during any game or any season is the infamous cowbell.

Nowadays, you can buy colored cowbells to match your State pride. At most games, the cowbell has its own tribute on the new video screens (rightfully named “Cowbell Cam,” with a winner each time). Even alumni come back to the games to show their State and cowbell pride.

But what exactly started the cowbell trend could be argued, depending on what era you grew up in or basically whose story you choose to side with.

Some say the tradition began back in 1926 with the cheer squad captain, Robert Bloedel (Class of 1928). The rivalry between USD and SDSU was at its best, and USD thought it was funny to refer to State as the “Cow College.” Bloedel thought SDSU should not be outdone, and if that’s what State was to be known as, then that’s what State should be proud of. He brought up the idea to have Jackrabbit fans carry cowbells to the rivalry games and ring them in reply to the U’s heckling.

On Hobo Day, President C.W. Pugsley presented Bloedel with a cowbell almost four feet tall to lead the cheers. Later at the game, Bloedel turned to the crowd with the mammoth cowbell, but was surprisingly drowned out by the numerous cowbells in the crowd that had already caught wind of the cowbell trend, dubbed “cowbellitis.”

Another attribution to the cowbell fame could be given to Clyde “Buck” Starbeack, a Jackrabbit lineman. Starbeack, also recognizing the significance of being a “cow college,” decided to fight fire with fire and ordered five barrels of cowbells to sell to as many students as possible before a game against the University. By the start of the game, all cowbells were gone, only to be found in the sound that rang through the stadium.

From then on, SDSU became synonymous with the cowbell. While most schools may have accepted it and often enjoyed the tradition, the only school that had a problem was, not shockingly, USD. They took every advantage to make fun of the new tradition, claiming in a 1926 edition of the USD Volante, “State College might call their fair sex cow-eds or probably cow-belles would be an appropriate name.”

Again, not to be outdone, a 1927 edition of the Collegian, then known as the Industrial Collegian, rebutted with a simple, yet unmistakable, column.

“We were down at Vermillion that day and we almost got lost in their magnificent one block of main street, and our adenoids are all sunburned from looking at the sky scrapers. Citified is no description of the U and its surroundings. We’ll have to apologize for those cowbells. They had no place down at that aristocratic little school, nestled comfortably among the cornfields and pastures of southern South Dakota.”

Indeed the tradition may have died down a bit in the past but the use of cowbells will always be significant in the always-standing rivalry with the U. After all, with the switch to Division-I, USD is going to have to listen for the ring of our cowbells to ever catch up to SDSU.