SDSU hosts high school football championships, aims to impress



Collegian File Photo

Jakob King, Sports Reporter

For the first time in the 39-year history of the South Dakota high school football playoffs, the championship games will be played outdoors this week, and South Dakota State officials hope it won’t be the last time.

In June, the South Dakota High School Activities Association announced the championships would be moved from the DakotaDome in Vermillion to Brookings’ Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium because of ongoing renovations that reduced seating capacity at the Dome.

Executive Director of the SDHSAA, Dan Swartos, has emphasized this year’s move is temporary. Next year, after renovations are completed at the DakotaDome, the state title games will move back to Vermillion through at least 2026, when the SDHSAA’s lease with the DakotaDome expires.

But Swartos added that if the event is successful, Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium will be considered as a potential new host for the games after 2026.

Besides Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium, the SDHSAA says that they also considered venues such as Howard Wood Field in Sioux Falls, Kirkeby-Over Stadium, which hosts Augustana football games, and Bob Young Field, which hosts the University of Sioux Falls football games.

“We looked at several other facilities around the state,” Swartos said. “In our minds, we wanted to go to a collegiate facility that had replay capabilities. Dana J. is one of the best facilities in the state. So, in our opinion, if we weren’t going to do it at the DakotaDome, we wanted to do it at another collegiate setting. Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium at SDSU seemed like the perfect fit for us.”

SDSU Associate Athletic Director of Facilities and Operations, Jeff Holm, credits the stadium that was built in 2016 as part of the reason Brookings was the best choice to host the games.

“We would not probably be someone who would have been reached out to by the SDHSAA if we didn’t have a new stadium,” Holm said. “Simply because Howard Wood Field probably would’ve been the first place they would have reached out to because they have all of the necessary amenities for the amount of press that would be there. With all the things that go into it, a venue like Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium is very capable of hosting something like this.”

The seven championship games are usually played over a three-day span, but because of a scheduling conflict with the SDSU home game on Saturday, Nov. 16, the schedule has been condensed to just two days. The 9A, 9AA, 9B, and 11A championship games will be played on Thursday, Nov. 14, and the 11AA, 11B, and 11AAA games will be played on Friday, Nov. 15.

For students worried that they will have to move their cars to accommodate an increased need for parking, Holm says that most don’t have to move their vehicles. Students parked in the economy lot north of the stadium will be given an alternate lot to park during the games. Aside from that, the parking lots surrounding the stadium will be paid parking for those attending the games.

Swartos noted that due to the potential of cold weather, the SDHSAA has had to budget in anticipation of decreased attendance. Assistant Executive Director of the SDHSAA, John Krogstrand, called the potential of bad weather “the only negative draw” of playing in Brookings, but also noted that the experience for the players to “play where the Jacks play” should offset that.

All of the positives of getting to play at that facility at SDSU’s campus with the level of the program is great for our student-athletes,” Krogstrand said. “Whenever we play championships at Frost Arena, one thing we always hear back from our coaches and our athletes is, ‘That was really cool to get to play where the Jacks play.’ So, there’s certainly a tremendous number of positives that are there, too. But we understand the sacrifice as far as playing outside.”

According to Holm, it was an easy decision to accept the request for Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium to host the games when the SDHSAA reached out in November 2018.

“We’re really looking forward to it and excited that the SDHSAA came to us and asked,” Holm said.

Swartos and Krogstrand both noted that Holm and everyone else at SDSU involved in the process have been good to work with and have expressed excitement for the weekend.

“We’ll watch the forecast a little bit, but the resilient South Dakotans that we all are, we’ll make the best out of any scenario,”  Krogstrand said. “Not saying anything against the DakotaDome, because we’re going to have that again next year in a refurbished stadium, but I think there is a really cool piece for our student-athletes to be able to experience playing in Brookings.”