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Transition to D-I helps campus

Athletics at a university are a way for students to connect and build school spirit. So when the University of South Dakota decided to make its transition to Division-I athletics, there were some changes that came with it.

The Coyote teams are now not only facing more difficult competition, but also closer competition. As a member of the Summit League for all sports except football, the Coyotes take on rivals South Dakota State University, North Dakota State University and University of Missouri-Kansas City.

“The fact that we play against teams that are up and down I-29 and more competitive will give our fans more of a reason to come to games,” President of the USD Foundation Steve Brown said. “It’s more of a regional rivalry and we’re able to compete against (SDSU) in the same conference.”

Brown said being in the same conference with SDSU will be beneficial for both schools.

“We’ve already seen how successful fan turnout is at games,” Brown said. “That’ll only to continue to grow as we’re able to compete in the conference tournament next year.”

Junior Samantha Drake is a student ambassador and said the transition has encouraged more students to consider USD as their university.

“Rivalries are a huge part of athletic tradition,” Drake said. “Having a rivalry is exciting and people look for things like that when choosing schools. It encourages students to come here.”

When the USD football team defeated the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities during the 2010 season, it created a new kind of publicity for

the university.

“There was a significant amount of publicity for going D-I, but beating Minnesota was a big enthusiasm generator,” USD President James Abbott said. “Those kinds of wins call attention to our university and shows everyone what we’re capable of.”

Abbott said after the victory, applications from Minnesota students increased and as a Division-I school, USD is able to compete for more students from the Midwest region.

As USD finishes its transition, Brown said the change has greatly impacted the university. With more coverage on national networks, Brown said alumni across the country can see USD and be proud of their teams.

While some research has shown that athletic success correlates to alumni donations, Brown said he hasn’t seen a correlation between donations.

“We don’t see a direct correlation the next day after winning a big game,” Brown said. “But it instills pride that leads to engagement in the university, whether it’s financially or not.”

Over the past few years, USD has made some significant changes on campus. Abbott said new buildings such as the Beacom School of Business, Coyote Village and Wellness Center were built because previous buildings weren’t up to par.

With the added publicity and recognition for transitioning to D-I, Drake said renovating campus is important.

“The addition of new buildings really improves campus,” Drake said. “Having a campus we’re proud of promotes school spirit and attracts new students to come here.”

The transition has revived USD’s rivalry with SDSU and increased school spirit, Abbott said, but not because the teams are in the same conference.

“Fans pick the rivals,” Abbott said. “SDSU will always be our most intense rivalry. Colleges are all about education, but anything that gets you excited about school is helpful.”