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State-U, Version 2: No Frozen Critters

Sep 14, 2011

The newest addition to the Brookings landscape is a friendly jab from Vermillion.


Are you ready to renew the athletic rivalry between the state’s two largest universities? It appears one school is.

A friend recently sent me a photo that I think is the first salvo in the soon-to-be-resurrected SDSU-USD rivalry. A huge red billboard recently went up along Interstate 29 near Daktronics in Brookings. It shows a coyote streaking after a rabbit, and the tagline reads, “Have an old friend for dinner.” It’s creative. It’s boldly placed in the heart of Jackrabbit Country. It’s also a sign that the rivalry many of us grew up with will be renewed with zest after nine years of dormancy.

SDSU and USD were spirited in-state rivals since 1889, when the football teams first played to a 6-6 tie. Then in 2003, SDSU announced plans to reclassify from the NCAA’s Division II to Division I, ending contests between the schools. USD made the move a few years later, and now both schools are again in the same athletic conferences, ensuring games every year. The rivalry resumes this winter, when USD visits Frost Arena on Jan. 12 for a men’s basketball game. Football follows next fall, with a game in Brookings on Nov. 17, 2012, the date advertised on the billboard.

I was a student at SDSU from 1998 to 2002. There was excitement all day when the USD basketball team was scheduled to play in Frost Arena. We’d arrive a full hour before the doors opened. When staff finally let us in, we’d sprint through the halls, gunning for the front row, half court seats. Once the game began, we’d keep one eye on the court and another scanning both student sections, trying to find the student who would inevitably toss a frozen coyote or jackrabbit onto the court.

Seemingly every alumnus has a frozen animal story. There’s a chapter full of them in Amy Dunkle’s The College on the Hill. Harry Forsyth, SDSU’s longtime athletic director, remembered finding a frozen coyote hanging from the rafters of the Barn, the campus field house where basketball games were once played. “They were going to lower it and play ‘Taps’ after the game,” he recalled. “We put a couple of big football tackles on the pulley to make sure nothing happened.”

The most serious incident happened during a game at Frost on Feb. 7, 1976, when an overzealous SDSU fan threw a 55-pound frozen coyote onto the court. It struck SDSU cheerleader Margie Fiedler in the head. Fiedler suffered a concussion, was hospitalized in Minneapolis and missed three weeks of school. She later said doctors told her the impact had shifted her brain inside her skull.

Hopefully nothing similar happens when the schools meet again. It’s simply time to move beyond chucking frozen wildlife at each other. We should embrace this renewed rivalry with civility and sportsmanship. And somebody at SDSU should get to work on a billboard near Exit 26.


06:55 am - Thu, September 15 2011
Rebecca Johnson said:
I'm excited that the rivalry is back! Don't worry, John. I won't leave a frozen jackrabbit on your desk or anything.
08:19 am - Thu, September 15 2011
Coyote Beautiful said:
It was so cold one winter that even the wild rabbits weren't showing in 10 below weather. Thank goodness for Dr. Byron Harrell's mammalogy specimen freezer in Churchill Haines and the few rabbits that skidded across the floor. The rivalry has never left it has just been frozen in time like those rabbits. Perhaps it's time to leave the rabbits frozen but bring the heat for the fun of sporty sportsmanship and goodnatured ribbing. I can't wait for dinner. - Coyote to the Core!!!
09:43 am - Thu, September 15 2011
Gary Yarrow said:
Margie is still having problems all these years, besides the hospital stay, she spent weeks in a quiet, very low light basement (her brother who worked at SDSU). Not a good spot in the history of the rivalry. She honestly could have not come out of it.
11:15 am - Thu, September 15 2011
Janel Laufman said:
I was a student at State from 1986-1990. I still have my t-shirt showing a large "U" with a screw through the middle of it. That rivalry was the best - great memories
12:52 pm - Thu, September 15 2011
JM said:
Can not wait for the basketball game in January but don't forget that the Volleyball teams play at the DakotaDome October 3rd and also the Soccer teams play October 21st in Vermillion as well! GO YOTES!!
06:38 am - Fri, September 16 2011
John Andrews said:
I think I'm most excited to bring my 8-year-old son to the games. I know how much fun I had going to them, and I'm looking forward to Joe having the same experience.
06:36 am - Mon, September 19 2011
Chuck Wirth said:
The billboard should read, "USD Coyotes, always trying to catch up to the Jackrabbits!".
07:08 am - Tue, September 20 2011
Mike Dittmer said:
Perhaps the balance of power would shift if SDSU changed their mascot to a Roadrunner?
12:46 pm - Wed, September 21 2011
Anonymous USD student and employee said:
I have to say, I think this is the worst idea for a billboard for USD. Sure, both USD and SDSU have terrible billboards and design teams- I cringe every time I see them on the highways- but this is such poor taste. It's embarrassing, really, for my school to be using such obvious and in-your-face tactics. It just makes USD look even more like typical small-town South Dakota kitsch. Makes me want to barf and not represent this school. What a waste of money and effort on something so dumb. I wish these schools would put half the money that goes into athletics and advertising into academics.
08:04 am - Mon, January 2 2012
Carl Boyd said:
I happened to be a spectator at the game. I was in 8th grade, from Flandreau, and saw the aftermath of the incident. The game was stopped for at least 15-20 minutes while the cheerleader was attended to. She was taken away on a stretcher and didn't regain conscioussness during this time. I never knew what happened to her or her name until now. My prayers are with Margie Fiedler, hoping her neurological symptoms improve. I've told this story a few times over the years but wondered if anyone ever believed me.
08:30 am - Thu, November 15 2012
Go Yotes said:
I have to say, what does throwing a 55-lb., frozen coyote onto the field show about the relative intelligence of the students at State? And to top it off they hit one of their own cheerleaders.

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