I went to Frost Arena on campus last Thursday (Feb. 2) for the SDSU game against Southwest Minnesota State.
Southwest had beaten other South Dakota teams this year and embarrassed the Jackrabbits last year. But I didn’t go hoping the Jackrabbit men would be victorious, and I didn’t go thinking that they would lose.
I didn’t go to avoid having to watch the premiere of the TV show Survivor at home. And I had no yearning for Frost Arena concession stand hot dogs (although I ended up eating two-slathered with onions).
I went to the game to show my support for Coach Scott Nagy, his staff and the young men who have, perhaps more than any other Jackrabbit team in a memory of fifty seasons, put it on the line under difficult circumstances.
I figured for all the members of the team have been through this year and last, they needed to know that was sticking with them through this dry period, knowing that a bumper crop awaits them somewhere up ahead.
And from the size of the Frost Arena crowd, I believe there were many at the game for the same reason.
They were there to show their appreciation and their support for a good bunch of young men who have never stopped trying.
To say it has been the season from hell might be an understatement.
But the players haven’t cashed in or given up and gone home. Heaven knows, they’ve tried to live up to what Jackrabbit fans have come to expect of their teams.
Difficult as it must be for them, they’ve sacrificed their time for lengthy practices, missed holidays at home and have had a numbing travel schedule. Being short-handed, they’ve played beyond their reserve of stamina, and mentally they’ve work their way through some embarrassments, often televised nationally.
They show up and they play the game, and I guess in life, that’s the lesson for all of us.
They play with purpose despite having lost star Steve Holdren to a season-ending knee injury, and now this latest circumstance that has decimated the starting five by another forty percent as this is written.
Scheduling hasn’t helped make this a season to remember, either. Starting out against the likes of Kentucky and Illinois and the recent eight-day swing through the Utah desert have probably been lessons for the coaches to pack away as they begin the arduous task now of working out the kinks for next year and the seasons beyond.
So I was there for an entertaining game that will be a topic of conversation by soon-to-be SDSU alumni as they meet years from now in the clothing of old men and women, talking about the good old collegiate days.
Freshman Matt Cadwell is destined to be one of the greats in Jackrabbit basketball history. Injured teammate Steve Holdren is, too. And that late-game shot by freshman wide receiver, six-foot five Mike Steffen, who was called up to help fill the breach, will be a future highlight long remembered.
I enjoyed last Thursday night’s game more than any I’ve watched in the last two seasons. The Jackrabbits were determined. The crowd was appreciative and the students, who have been sadly lacking at most games this year, were loud, boisterous and supportive, like the student crowds of old.
The noise was an echo of how I remember it once was.
The game brought back fond memories.
This transition to another level will take time.
I’m sticking with the Jackrabbits, not matter how long it takes.
Chuck Cecil is an SDSU graduate, a former Collegian editor, a former SDSU administrator, and a retired newspaper publisher. He has watched Jackrabbit basketball since 1955, rarely missing a home game. Cecil graduated from SDSU with a degree in journalism in 1959. He earned a master’s degree in journalism in 1971. Cecil writes a weekly column for The Brookings Register and this column is reprinted with his permission.