Campus, community partnership showcased on national stage


It started out a typical Sunday around 11 a.m. My wife, Jane, and I had returned from church, and I was finishing a few work emails and preparing for the week ahead. Sunday afternoon is usually when my family comes over to the house, and we enjoy a little football before having dinner together.

It was the calm before the next week’s storm.

On this particular Sunday, my cellphone rang. The name that came up on my phone was our athletic director Justin Sell, which was not out of the ordinary on a Sunday. Maybe he was calling about the NCAA meetings I was attending during the week or letting me know the NDSU game was officially sold out.

But this phone call was a little different. “Hi Barry. It’s Justin. ESPN College GameDay is coming to Brookings this week.”

There was an initial thought of disbelief, followed by a rush of excitement. Then it hit – how are we going to pull this off? 

Justin assured me we had a plan and people in place to begin working through the details. ESPN producers and directors would be in Brookings the next day, and we would get a location and site determined. But Justin said something else that gave me confidence. “We are reaching out to the city and its leadership to engage with them on how to create the best experience possible for everyone.”

Brookings and SDSU have always been prideful of our town-and-gown relationship. It has not always been perfect, but over the years, the intent has been to work together for the betterment of the overall community. We have accomplished a lot … together!

GameDay took that relationship to another level. 

We can all revel in the economic impact the week generated and the amount of exposure we received on a national stage. But at the end of the day, what occurred were groups of people working together to sort out logistics, develop the next creative idea and ensure that the ESPN talent, producers and behind-the-scenes people left Brookings knowing we delivered the type of atmosphere and experience that rivals bigger Power Five schools in much larger communities.

And we did it – together! Brookings and SDSU were at our best.

Moving forward, there will be many other opportunities for us to showcase our commitment to each others success, maybe even a return visit from GameDay in the future. 

SDSU will continue to provide access to the benefits of higher education to all. We will continue to build the types of facilities that train and prepare the next generation of teachers, doctors, business leaders, engineers, ag producers, pharmacists, nurses, musicians, performers and others. We will continue to attract the brightest and best students in South Dakota and beyond.

We will also continue to face our challenges head on. Enrollment is a challenge throughout higher education, and we are working hard to return our declining enrollment into institutional growth. In the near future, campus and community leaders and various organizations will begin meeting to plan and coordinate activities around Hobo Day 2020 and Halloween. It is an imperfect scenario, but together we will make it a great celebration.

At SDSU, we cannot celebrate our accomplishments or fix our challenges without the support of the Brookings community.

As president of SDSU, an alum of the university and a citizen of Brookings, I could not be prouder of what we accomplished together during ESPN College GameDay week. The relationship and, more importantly, the momentum created will propel our community forward.

Thank you Brookings! It is certainly a great day to be a Jackrabbit, a Bobcat and a citizen of Brookings!