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A Respectful Rivalry Rekindled
Nov 19, 2012
I remember the old days of State-U games, and I suspect many of you do, too. I saw my share of students escorted out of stadiums and arenas for flinging dead animals and other obnoxious behavior. But the only dead critter that came with the renewal of the South Dakota State/University of South Dakota football rivalry showed up months ago: a dead coyote strung from USD’s cleverly placed billboard near Brookings advertising Saturday’s game.
One team did indeed “have an old friend for dinner,” as the billboard sardonically read, but it was the Jackrabbits who were left picking coyote from their teeth after SDSU’s 31-8 victory at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium in Brookings. I wasn’t sure what to expect walking into the stadium for the first meeting between these old rivals since 2003. I was a student at SDSU from 1998 to 2002. I remember the weeklong anticipation that preceded the football game each fall seemed to surpass that for every other opponent on the schedule. There were offensive T-shirts and equally offensive chants on game day. I saw a few shirts, and maybe the chants were confined to the tailgating lot before the game, but overall Saturday’s game seemed to introduce a new chapter in the history of these two schools.
Both teams have made the leap to Division I, which accounts for the nearly decade long hiatus in these games. It seems the entire state is trying to lift this rivalry to a new level. It’s being billed as the “South Dakota Showdown Series,” which is a new competition sponsored by the South Dakota Corn Utilization Council and Feeding South Dakota that pits the two schools athletically and academically. Head coaches John Stiegelmeier and Joe Glenn seemed to embrace the challenge, meeting at midfield before and after the game with hugs and broad smiles.
And the game day experience has been elevated. Not many people would have thought of tailgating before the game 15 years ago. Today a sea of cars, tents and smoking grills fills the lot north of the stadium. USD brought their marching band along, which never happened when I was in school. “I hope they don’t try to play while we’re playing,” said a fan seated near me, demonstrating that some alums still harbor a faint sense that any group from Vermillion must be in Brookings with innately evil intentions. But there were none. Band members from each school chatted on the sidelines, and Jacks fans even gave The Sound of USD a modest round of applause after their halftime show.
Last week, SDSU officials believed Saturday’s game could break Coughlin’s crowd record of 16,345, set at the Dakota Marker game against North Dakota State in 2007. That record still stands, but none of the 15,270 people who attended saw a single frozen rabbit or coyote. Instead, they watched the respectful rekindling of an old rivalry, and the beginning of a new era of State-U football.