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A Check And A Challenge
Coach John Stiegelmeier stands behind South Dakota State’s decision three years ago to accept an invitation to play at Nebraska, even if the Huskers have gone from one of their low points in 2007 to again being a Top 10 team.
“At that point, that time, Nebraska was a different football team than they are now,” Stiegelmeier said this week.
The Jackrabbits still see the matchup with NU as the kind of game they want to play. Both for the challenge and the $375,000 payday.
“It’s a priority,” Stiegelmeier said. “We get close to 20 percent of our total football budget from a game like this, hence the term ‘guarantee game.’ ”
One thing about SDSU is that it will always keep those matchups with Football Bowl Subdivision teams regional. The Jackrabbits played Iowa State in 2008 and Minnesota in 2009, and have Illinois, Kansas and Minnesota already on future schedules.
“I don’t want to play a school that our fans and our players basically don’t know where it’s at,” Stiegelmeier said, mentioning Wisconsin, Iowa and Wyoming as some others the Jackrabbits would maybe like to play.
South Dakota State is getting roughly half of what NU might pay some FBS schools for a one-time trip to Lincoln. But Stiegelmeier said that goes with being a Football Championship Subdivision team.
“A lot of programs like us, we want to play at Nebraska, so they’re in the driver’s seat,” he said.
SDSU will bring 66 players to Lincoln and arrive by bus on Friday. The program is starting its sixth season as a member of FCS (formerly NCAA Division I-AA).
Stiegelmeier said it was a heavily-debated decision to leave Division II, but most seem on board with it now.
“There were so many people we had to lobby and sell and convince,” he said. “I’m certain in the state of South Dakota there were a pretty good majority against the move. It’s a very conservative state and there was no reference point to it. We weren’t becoming a Nebraska, we were becoming a Western Illinois.”
South Dakota has followed, but Stiegelmeier said one of the hardest things for people to accept is that the Jackrabbits and Coyotes don’t play every season as they used to in the old North Central Conference.
“For the people that looked so forward to that game, that’s one of the negatives, I guess,” he said. “But our North Dakota State rivalry has just exploded.”
By Rich Kaipust, Omaha World-Herald