Year of the rivalry
College football rivalries are alive and well in South Dakota.
This fall, South Dakota football fanatics have had the opportunity to see a renewal of the state's top college football rivalries. The games have ranged from the lower college football level at NAIA with Dakota Wesleyan University and Dakota State, through Division II with Augustana-Sioux Falls and all the way up to NCAA Division I, when this weekend the state's biggest rivalry clashes.
South Dakota State University hosts the University of South Dakota at 2 p.m. today in a game that should threaten the attendance record at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium in Brookings.
For various reasons, these top rivalry games discontinued play for the better part of a decade or more. Ironically, all returned over the past year, and coaches of the programs say it's added a definite flair to their seasons.
"Any rivalry game has a different flavor to it than a regular game," SDSU coach John Stiegelmeier said. "The intensity of play is always heightened and the fans seem to yell louder and be more involved."
DWU vs. DSU
This year's in-state college football rivalries kicked off this year on Sept. 1, when DWU hosted Dakota State at Joe Quintal Field in Mitchell.
The Tigers came out on top with a 40-14 drubbing of the Trojans. The 26-point deficit was a little better than the 56-20 margin a year earlier when the two teams faced off in Madison against each other for the first time since 2004. Despite the most recent two meetings going in favor of the Tigers, DWU and Dakota State's football rivalry has historically been a back-and-forth affair with the series record sitting at 35-30-1 in favor of Dakota State.
"I think that it's one of those games where it's fun to be a part of, because the schools are so close and the kids all know each other," Dakota Wesleyan head coach Ross Cimpl said. "A lot of the kids in our game played together or played against each other in high school."
The proximity of the schools adds vigor and a sense of pride to the games. While Dakota State is in Madison and Dakota Wesleyan is in Mitchell, the institutions are 71 miles apart and consistently battle for in-state recruits. Although they're no longer in the same league, DSU and DWU were longtime foes in the old South Dakota Intercollegiate Conference, which disbanded more than a decade ago.
"The fact that they are only an hour away means that we are going to be recruiting the same guys," Dakota State head football coach Josh Anderson said. "The proximity makes for an exciting environment.
"In the college ranks, one of the most important things is bragging rights, so if we beat DWU, I can go to a kid's house and say, 'Hey, we beat them. Come to play for me.' "
The Trojans and Tigers are slated to play each other for the next two seasons and both coaches would like to see a bragging-rights trophy added to the game to give extra incentive.
"I think it would be something fun for the guys to play for and add some extra inspiration. It would give the guys something to look forward to and it would be nice to have the trophy in a case for the year," said Cimpl, who played his college football at the University of Sioux Falls.
Augie vs. USF
In Sioux Falls, there is already a trophy hoisted after the 26th Street Tussle, a meeting between Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference foes Augustana College and the University of Sioux Falls. The matchup is called "The Key to the City," and was won this year by USF after defeating the Vikings on Oct. 20 in a 32-31 overtime barn-burner.
"I think it was a pretty important game, but it was more important than just playing Augustana because at that point in the season we were still trying to make the playoffs," said University of Sioux Falls head coach Jed Stugart, whose team finished 9-2 in the NSIC.
The series between the teams began in 1916, but this year's classic marked the first time the two schools played since 1986, when Augustana won 20-0. The Vikings now hold an 18-3 lead in the matchup.
Although the schools are only a few blocks apart in residential Sioux Falls, the rivalry was discontinued due to their longtime difference in affiliation. Augustana is NCAA II and formerly played in the tough North Central Conference; USF was traditionally affiliated with NAIA.
When USF moved upward to NCAA II and the two schools ended up at the same level and in the same conference, the rivalry began anew.
"We have been known as the NAIA school that was pretty good, and now we are Division II so we felt like all the pressure was on us and that it was a game we had to have," Stugart said.
Football = rivalries
College football rivalries have been at the very heart of football existence since its inception in 1869. In the years since, scores of epic college football rivalries have spawned. From Harvard-Yale, Army-Navy, Texas-Oklahoma, Ohio State-Michigan, Notre Dame-USC, Clemson-South Carolina and Alabama-Auburn, college football rivalries are plentiful.
A rivalry that has not caught the nation's attention -- but one that is of great importance to football fans in South Dakota -- is the matchup between the this state's two largest schools.
South Dakota State University and University of South Dakota have been foes on the football field since 1889, the first game when both teams battled to a 6-all tie. Today, when the teams lock horns for the first time in nine years, state supremacy will again be on the line, as well as a possible berth to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs for the Jacks.
"This isn't just bragging rights on the line," Stiegelmeier said. "... There is a huge prize to be gained by our team."
USD is ahead in the series 50-48-7, but this time things are different: Both teams are official members of the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
"The price of poker has gone up," said University of South Dakota Joe Glenn. "We are both members of the Missouri Valley Football Conference now, which is probably the best (Football Championship Subdivision) conference in America."
In the old days of the SDSU-USD rivalry, USD fans would throw frozen jackrabbits onto the field, while SDSU fans would throw dead coyotes.
The matchup is still fierce and important to the older fan base, but the students who are in college now generally were in middle school the last time these teams met on the football field.
Stiegelmeier thinks the newness and re-emergence of the Jacks-Coyotes matchup this year will prompt the rivalry to get even bigger in the near future.
"I think in four or five years, the rivalry on and off the field will take off, because right now we have kids who haven't grown up seeing SDSU and USD play football against each other," Stiegelmeier said.