Jackrabbit Nation still needs natioal recognition

Ariy-El Boynton

Back in my days with The Collegian, 2006-08, I didn’t want anything to do with Scott Nagy, the Jackrabbits men’s basketball head coach. I remember one presser he gave where he took his chair, then ate a cookie. His coaching counterpart, Ron Hunter, who was leading IUPUI at the time, had tears in his eyes talking about his charity work with Samaritan’s Feet charity, which Nagy takes part in today.

Picking up the Sioux Falls paper, the sports editor called for his head, claiming the Jacks would be better without their leader. He was at SDSU forever, and yet he appeared as warm as a mid-January night. What was wrong?

He was losing and he hated it. Recently, he admitted to thinking about leaving the school back before there was Nate Wolters, Griffan Callahan and an NCAA tournament berth.

I had the legendary Collegian writer Travis Kriens talk with Mr. Nagy, I didn’t want to be within five feet from him.

Now, going into the 2012-13 season, there are few NCAA teams that I would want cover over the Jacks.

Why? Because Nagy, Walters, Tony Fiegem, Chad White, Jordan Dykstra, and a group of talented assistants have awakened the Jackrabbit nation and raised their hopes.

Nagy, to his credit, has told his players they are loved during The Summit League Basketball Tournament and during the run to play Baylor. That love that he talks about involves the state, students, the region and the coaching staff. While that love is great, in order to reach the next bar, they need love from the national media and respect from the whole nation.

Is making the tournament, for both the men’s and women’s a great accomplishment? Yes. But there is too much talent to satisfy with just a berth.

The Good news: The secret to the love from the national stage is simple – win and advance. Gonzaga, similar to SDSU, has made several NCAA trips, and won many games. They are now a national power.

The Jackrabbit women, led by the extremely talented Aaron Johnston, are fully aware how hard this task can be. Johnston’s warriors haven’t won a NCAA game since 2009, losing three straight to “major” schools, all across the country in the women’s tournament.

Can the Jackrabbit women be proud of making four straight NCAAs? Yes, but it shouldn’t be enough.

Was I proud to see Fiegen and White, who I covered at the Madison Daily Leader, play on national TV and play hand-in-hand against Baylor for 40 minutes? You bet.

I want the whole nation, and the mainstream media, to love the Jacks, just like the Jackrabbit Nation does.