Jackrabbit fans gather in Frisco for pregame pep rally


Marshall Minihan

SDSU fans gather at the Jackrabbit pep rally Jan. 7 at Frisco Hall in Frisco, Texas.

Marshall Minihan, Sports Reporter

Jackrabbit nation has made it to Frisco, Texas.

Fans, alumni, and former players traveled from across the country to see South Dakota State take on rival North Dakota State in the FCS National Championship game at Toyota Stadium Sunday.

SDSU fans and alumni made their way to Frisco Hall for the Jackrabbit Pep Rally, hosted by the SDSU Alumni Association, Saturday from 4-7 p.m. The pep rally started with a few words from Jacks coach John Stiegelmeier and President Barry Dunn. People then had the chance to eat and mingle before the Pride of the Dakotas marching performed to close out the night.

Fans are anxious to see their Jackrabbits face longtime rival and nine-time national champion NDSU, a matchup many of them were anticipating.

“It makes it more interesting and fun for both schools,” said 1960 SDSU graduate Rodney Fouberg.

The event was a chance for people to show their support for the Jacks and share their stories the night before game day. One of those supporters at the rally was John Meek, a current Texas resident who played quarterback for the Jacks from 1958-1960.

“The whole world has changed,” the Miller, South Dakota native said. “Jackrabbit football to me was a way of life. It just taught me things that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do.”

His favorite memory came from a game he played against North Dakota State in the 1960 football season when his team traveled to Fargo to play in NDSU’s homecoming game.

“It was the most miserable day,” Meek said. “It rained, it sleeted and it snowed all at the same time.”

Beth Roemmelt, a 1975 graduate of the nursing program at SDSU, traveled from Virginia to Texas with her husband Bruce to see the Jacks play Sunday. They were in Frisco two seasons ago where they watched SDSU fall to Sam Houston State.

“It was crushing, soul-crushing,” Roemmelt said.

Roemmelt is the daughter of the late Forrest “Tiz” Lothrop, quarterback for the Jacks from 1946-1948, so she’s always had a special connection to SDSU.

“Jackrabbit football has been part of my life since I could remember,” she said. “I have red, yellow, and blue blood in my veins so it just seemed right to be here.”

When the Jacks made it back to Frisco this season, Roemmelt knew she had to come to support SDSU. This time, she is hoping for a different outcome.

“It’s a revenge game, it’s time,” she said. “It’s just time. And we wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”

With all the blue and yellow flooding the hall during the rally, it was hard to tell some people apart, but nobody mistook Lowell Somsen, who graduated from SDSU more than 50 years ago, sporting a big Jackrabbit sombrero and a Jackrabbit poncho. Somsen proudly showed off his outfit through the event while having a good time.

“I’ve had this for about five or six years and wore it to the (Summit League basketball tournament). I’ve had about eight to 10 networks interview me and it was just a fluke thing,” Somsen said. “I found it in Progreso, Texas and it’s just one of those things that I bring out for the Summit tournament and big events.”

To many Jackrabbit fans, SDSU football is more than just a game, it’s a way of life. Erin McCarty views Jackrabbit football as a family, something that has always meant a lot to him.

“(Jackrabbit football) is a lot of fun because it’s a family that you can get involved with and you can go to a game not knowing if any of your friends will be there,” McCarty said. “And you run into a bunch of people who have been supporters and you run into friends you went to college with. It’s just one big family.”

McCarty arrived in Brookings in 1979 and has seen major change and improvement in the football program since he was a student.

“When I was there, It wasn’t a (Division I) school at the time so the fact that they went D1 has made such a big improvement,” he said.

South Dakota State made that jump up to Division I in 2004 along with NDSU, a move that changed the fortune of both programs. Since then, SDSU has made it to two national title games while the Bison have now made ten.

While the Jackrabbits are attempting to win their first national championship in program history, the team knows the importance of having supporters in Frisco with them.

“I asked the students to be there and the fans to be there and this is so honoring for our football program,” Stiegelmeier said during the pep rally. “I can’t wait to have our players leave the locker room tomorrow and see you guys and hear you guys because you make a difference, and we love you.”