OUR VIEW: Any doubts about SDSU D-I move are obliterated
South Dakota State University has been chipping away at critics who said the Jackrabbits couldn't compete at the Division I level ever since the university made the jump from Division II in 2004.
The SDSU women's basketball team led the early charge into Division I prominence by advancing to the NCAA tournament each of the past three years. The football team also enjoyed early Division I success with a conference title in 2007 and a near-upset of perennial powerhouse Nebraska in 2010.
Any remaining shreds of doubt about SDSU's ability to succeed in Division I were obliterated Tuesday in thrilling fashion, as both the Jackrabbit men's and women's teams advanced to their respective NCAA tournaments (the fourth consecutive tournament berth for the women).
Rewind the clock to the early 2000s, when SDSU was about to become the state's first Division I institution. There were a lot of skeptics and doubters back then. They said SDSU would have trouble competing and wouldn't be able to win championships like the university had in Division II. They said SDSU would have to begin recruiting nationally if it truly wanted to succeed at Division I, and that would result in fewer opportunities to play at SDSU for scholar-athletes in South Dakota and neighboring states.
Imagine if we could go back in time and tell those skeptics that only eight years after making the Division I jump, the SDSU men's and women's basketball teams would qualify for the Division I national tournaments in the same season with 12 of the combined 28 players hailing from South Dakota. And not only that, but the qualifying games would both be played in front of huge crowds at the Sioux Falls Arena, resulting in all manner of national publicity for the school, Sioux Falls and the state.
Had we known back then what we know now, SDSU's jump to Division I would have been a no-brainer. Of course, we didn't know what would happen, and that makes the leaders who spearheaded the move all the more impressive.
Today we congratulate SDSU on its Division I success and congratulate the visionaries who made the Division I move a reality. The school's achievements help the rest of us believe anything is possible, even here in little old South Dakota.