Friday, July 2, 2010

Student Section Chronicles: South Dakota State

In South Dakota State's first season as a member of The Summit League, something very unfortunate happened: the rivals from North Dakota State captured the conference crown and earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament. To most outside of the Dakotas, this was all that was needed to establish NDSU as the front-runner in the battle for Division 1 supremacy amongst the two state schools. With the slip-on of a shiny slipper, NDSU had become the North Carolina to SDSU's South Carolina. Both respectable in their own right, but one needing no introduction to observers around the country.

I'm positive SDSU fans would have something to say about such a dichotomy existing so quickly. Fortunately, their basketball team did enough in the 2009-10 season to prove the Jackrabbits would not play the role of the perpetual second fiddle. After leading The Summit League standings in early January, the crew from Brookings cooled off a bit but did end up with a very respectable 10-8 record in conference (a 3-win improvement from the year before). What was most impressive, though, was that the team earned a couple wins on the road, a task they failed to complete during their inaugural run.

Where SDSU represents the hardest is at The Summit League Tournament in Sioux Falls, South Dakota each March. They picked up an unlikely win against Oral Roberts during the 2008-2009 season there before Oakland dispatched them in the second round. This season I was in attendance for their first round game against upstart IPFW. Looking back, it is still mind-boggling to me that they lost that game, especially given the fan support. While it was hard to notice a discernable student section, the entire arena was full of yellow and blue-clad fans of all ages, always ready to stand-up during the fight song and every important possession. It was one of my lasting impressions of the Tournament and a sure-fire indication that South Dakota is as fine a venue for Summit League basketball as any. Since I didn't get a chance to see their student section in action, I was especially anxious to reach out to South Dakota State for this series. What follows here is a brief question and answer with Tony, an SDSU student section participant.

Name of the student section:

I'm not sure if there is a formal name. Frost Arena is referred to as "The World's Largest Rabbit Den." I found a link to a group of fan's being called the "Jacks FanAddicts" but I'm not sure if it is still active. If it is, I haven't heard anything about it.

(Update: After publishing this, we had another reader/SDSU supporter give us this bit of info on the FanAddicts: It is still active, though I can see how some might be confused about it. The group is sponsored by Cubby's and it is for SDSU students only, and to become a member all a student has to do is pay $5, fill out a short form, and then they would receive a Jacks FanAddict T-shirt. With membership, the student gets a Jacks FanAddict T-Shirt which makes them eligible for the Cubby's FanAddict of the game contest (where a student would either shoot 1 free throw, or shoot multiple free throws against another FanAddict to see who made the most in thirty seconds during a media timeout, and the winner would receive a Cubby's gift certificate worth $25), though there were many times this year someone not wearing a Jacks FanAddict T-Shirt participated due to lack of people wearing them or the ones wearing them did not want to participate in the contest.)

Does your student section require/recommend a certain shirt (or shirt color) be worn?

Yellow and blue shirts are expected.

Describe the recent history of your student section? How long has it existed in its current state?

The student section has been pretty lousy recently, other than for women's games. When the women made a WNIT run, the crowds were supposedly amazing, but that was before my time as a student. The men's team has recently improved, slightly, and this past year the crowd was definitely better than it was the previous year, but it still wasn't that great. The WBB game against USD was the best crowd I've witnessed in my 2 years as a student. I personally enjoy MBB much more than WBB, so I'm hoping that the men's increased support continues. There was recently an article here about our poor student section (Link).

How are tickets allocated for students in the student section?

Students are admitted with a student ID. An activity fee is paid by all students in their tuition. At one game (SDSU vs. USD WBB) students were required to get their tickets before hand.

Where are you located at in the arena, and what is your favorite part about such placement?

Along the entire side of the court behind press row and the benches, except for a section for the opposing team's fans. The seats are great and with a good crowd the atmosphere is intimidating.

What are the two to three biggest games for your student section each year?

NDSU, and either Oakland or IUPUI, depending on which is the team to beat that year. Both teams drew big crowds this past year. USD will turn into the biggest draw in 2012 with the rivalry restarting. I went to one of the USD-SDSU games in Frost as a kid and it was incredible.

What struggles does your student section face every year?

Filling the student section is a problem that we shouldn't have but still do. A lot of students aren't aware when games are because 18-23 year olds are too lazy to look it up online. The athletic department started sending emails to students this past year to alert them to games and I think that helped. If they started advertising around campus that would definitely help too. Another problem is just cheering in general. Even when the entire section is standing, there is rarely any cheering besides an occasional "DE-FENSE" or "Here we go Rabbits." Creativity definitely needs to be improved.

Describe your most original chant, or a memory of a particular experience in the student section?

I can't think of anything particular. Like I said, our student section, even when cheering, lacks creativity. Hopefully it can be improved this year.

Do the students at your school have any unique rituals performed before big games? Or do you have a specific experience to share if it is not something customarily done?

Not that I know of or can think of off the top of my head. One thing that wasn't addressed in the questions though that I'd like to mention is that the band is usually really good and they cheer loudly.

Why do you ultimately choose to be a part of the student section at your school?

I love watching good basketball and it is definitely an enjoyable experience even when the crowd is poor. When the crowd is better, it's an even greater experience.

- Thanks to Tony for representing SDSU with his answers. Much appreciated. The next piece in this series will be posted on Monday.

Other reports from the Student Section Chronicles:

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