After a successful year of athletics for the University of South Dakota, the university’s goal for the 2014-15 school year is to continue growing the student fan base after making strides this past year.
Lindsay Sparks, director of transitions and student programming, said there were more than 12,000 student ID swipes at athletic events, a number the university is happy with.
“We’re trying to give students more freedom to be wild and crazy yet still respectful at games,” Sparks said. “We’re happy they’re having more fun in the crowd.”
In addition to giving students more freedom at the games, there has also been an increase in freedom during tailgating.
“We saw a big growth in tailgating this year,” Sparks said. “Our goal is to provide a more entertaining, Division I atmosphere.”
The Coyote Crazies student organization was also brought back to life this year. The goal of the Coyote Crazies is to “improve student engagement in Coyote athletics and overall school pride by building a committed, educated student fan base and a game day atmosphere built for students by the students,” according to the group’s website.
Junior Rachelle Norberg, vice president of the Coyote Crazies, said this year was a learning experience for the group.
“We had no idea what were doing, but we had a really successful year,” she said. “We were able to reach out to a lot of students and retain the students who do go to every game. We were able to use some of the benefits that the university gave us, and we compiled a 1,000-student contact sheet, which is almost one-quarter of campus that we can reach with just an email.”
Neal Bendesky, coordinator for athletic marketing and promotions, said in a previous interview with The Volante, the goal is to draw more students to the games to bring the Division I atmosphere to the Dome.
“A big key to finding team success is student participation,” Bendesky said. “We want people recognizing that we are a tough place to play.”
Sparks said there was a big response to the spring football game contest, which was a trip to Oregon for USD’s football game against the Ducks this fall.
The women’s basketball team’s Summit League Championship and trip to the NCAA tournament will likely factor into game attendance growth next year, Sparks said.
“There’s no secret — if you win, people come,” she said. “People want to watch fun, winning games. It’s fun to watch success and be a part of that success, so I definitely think we’re going to see an increase in numbers as our programs grow. Even sports like track and field, cross country and tennis have had huge success this year and that’s awesome for the university.”
Sparks said she’s excited for everything the Coyote Crazies have planned for next year as they take their organization to the next level.
Norberg said the Coyote Crazies have their base plan for what they want to accomplish next year already in place.
“We’re working on T-shirts and looking at sponsorship opportunities in the community,” she said. “Next year there will be a $15 fee to join, but that will give you a T-shirt, a Coyote Crazies card with community bonuses and early ticket pickup.”
With a year under their belts, Norberg said the group will focus more on recruiting next year.
“We’re a lot more organized and we know what to expect,” she said. “We’ve found a balance of what we can do, so next year we’ll focus on recruiting and getting more involved on campus.”
Norberg said students should join Coyote Crazies because the benefits are two-fold.
“First, you get priority pickup, you get into the Dome before everyone else and you get other membership perks,” she said. “You’re also saying you’re invested in USD, our athletes and promoting Coyote athletics. You’re saying you’re proud to be a Coyote.”
Sparks said she encourages every student to attend at least one game for each sport next year.
“Our students should feel lucky that USD makes it so easy to go to games,” she said. “All they have to do is swipe their ID card and they get a free ticket, plus there are freebies at every game. Athletic events are important for students to take part in. It’s about going and giving it a try. Go to each opener and find out what it’s like. Find a reason to go to everything once because you can, and it’s part of college.”