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Jacks aim to boost staff, facilities SDSU
South Dakota State, having completed the five-year reclassification process, has put together a rolling five-year plan for the athletic department.
Categories include scholarships, personnel, facilities, programming, operations and equipment and capital expenditures - but not wins and losses.
“I’ve always said winning is a byproduct,” athletic director Fred Oien said. “It is not an end goal.”
SDSU made adding scholarships a priority during the D-I transition, and 10 of its 21 teams - including all but three on the women’s side - offer the maximum allowed by the NCAA. Those scholarship numbers will continue to grow, albeit much more slowly, accentuating the need for more support staff.
The Jacks have added 13 full-time positions since leaving Division II, but the school did not have a full-time golf coach until this week, and it still doesn’t in tennis. The wrestling, baseball and softball teams lack full-time assistants. Even the high-profile sports of football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball are operating below the NCAA max in terms of staff.
According to men’s basketball coach Scott Nagy, those deficiencies are being brought to light by the competition during recruiting battles.
“The No. 1 direct connection to student-athletes are coaches,” women’s basketball coach Aaron Johnston said. “A lot of time assistant coaches are the ones that spend the greatest amount of time with those people. If that’s our No. 1 priority, then that’s the one area we need to address a little bit better.”
Another pressing need involves facility upgrades.
A master plan for facilities has been in place since 2004, and Oien said that is being evaluated in terms of updated cost estimates and possible timelines. One of the central pieces - the Dykhouse Center, a $6 million building that will house offices, training equipment and meeting spaces for all outdoor sports - is set to break ground this fall and open in 2010.
Beyond that, Oien said about 30 more projects - including an indoor practice facility and a football stadium - are part of the master plan. Ideally, he said, everything would be moving forward within 10 years, either in terms of construction or active fundraising.
Time may be of the essence if SDSU hopes to build upon the on-field momentum generated over the past four years.
The women’s track team, for example, has improved greatly because of increased funding, finishing second in the Summit League indoor and outdoor meets this spring. But with former North Central Conference rivals South Dakota and North Dakota set to reclassify and subsequently add scholarships, the Jacks could perhaps fall back to the pack because of inadequate practice and meet facilities.
“We understand we have some sports that we need to take care of so that the student-athletes in those sports can be better treated,” Oien said. “We also understand in some sports additional coaches would make the experience better, give them better training, better skill development. It’s all driven by our financial performance, our ability to generate revenue.”
SDSU: the year ahead
Biggest game: Aug. 28 at Iowa State. Although meaningless in terms of conference play, SDSU has a chance to break a string of consecutive 0-3 starts and make a statement in its first game against a Big 12 team since 1963.
Biggest challenge: Surviving the conference schedule. Six of the nine teams in the Missouri Valley Football Conference - the Jacks’ new home - are ranked in the preseason top 25.
Playoff prospects: It’s tough to make the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs with four losses, and the Jacks have road games at Iowa State, defending conference champ Northern Iowa, former national semifinalist Southern Illinois and rival North Dakota State.
Face of the program: Ryan Berry, QB. The senior is one of three returning starters at his position within the conference. The Jackrabbits will be in business if he can better last year’s numbers of 2,132 yards with 19 TDs and 9 INTs.
By Terry Vandrovec
Sioux Falls Argus-Leaderhttp://www.argusleader.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080811/SPORTS0202/808110322/1002/sports