SDSU impresses the college football universe

Congratulations to our neighbors in Brookings and at South Dakota State University.

You won over the hearts of many fans when a popular three-hour college football pregame show took over the SDSU campus, Brookings and South Dakota.

ESPN’s “College GameDay” visited Brookings for last weekend’s rivalry game between the Jackrabbits and North Dakota State University. It’s estimated that more than 1.7 million viewers tuned in Saturday morning. Some of those same eyes watched Brookings being featured in another 30-minute ESPN program, “College Football Live,” on Friday afternoon.

Throw in all the social media, and SDSU hit the national prominence jackpot. Even after ESPN pulled out of Brookings, Jackrabbit Nation was being talked about by ESPN broadcasters wearing Jackrabbit gear.

SDSU, Brookings and South Dakota made a good first impression on “College GameDay,” and the rewards, we hope, will be ongoing for years to come.

“College GameDay” rarely stops at small Division I schools that compete in the Football Championship Subdivision, commonly called FCS. It often broadcasts from much larger Football Bowl Subdivision campuses such as Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Oklahoma.

SDSU was “GameDay’s” ninth visit to an FCS campus since the show started broadcasting on location 26 years ago. That is only nine times in 331 broadcasts. The ESPN gang has been to NDSU in Fargo, North Dakota, twice. Only 74 schools have hosted the show.

Large, loud crowds of Jackrabbit supporters greeted and impressed the team of ESPN broadcasters who comprise “GameDay’s” on-air talent. The fans showed up early and were respectful and enthusiastic.

It was everything “College GameDay” wants from its hosting campus.

Beyond the pregame show hoopla, three members of the ESPN staff also took time to meet with SDSU journalism students. Reporters Tom Rinaldi and Gene Wojciechowski and producer Drew Gallagher spent more than an hour with the students the afternoon of Oct. 25.

“The result: a semester’s worth of lessons and inspiration about the power and possibilities of journalism as not just a career but a vocation and a passion,” wrote David Bordewyk of the South Dakota Newspaper Association in a story he posted on Facebook.

The Brookings Convention and Visitors Bureau estimated the entire “College GameDay” week had an economic impact of more than $1.5 million on the city.

Congratulations again to all involved. You made your state, city and university proud.

Selby native and long-time SDSU coach John Stiegelmeier was impressive as well during his national TV appearances. His down home, humble style came across well as he spoke of his pride for his team.

The broadcast also dedicated time to SDSU’s growing list of NFL players. Players like Rapid City’s Adam Vinatieri and Britton-Hecla graduate Dallas Goedert.

At 46, Vinatieri is the oldest active player in the NFL. The four-time Super Bowl-winning kicker is the all-time leading scorer in the NFL and a future Hall-of-Famer.

Goedert is in his second year in the NFL. The Philadelphia Eagles’ tight end has had an impressive start to his pro football career, earning respect for his great blocking while catching 50 passes for 516 yards and seven touchdowns.

In the end, NDSU defeated SDSU 23-16 on the field in front of a first-time, sold-out SDSU stadium – 19,371, the largest crowd to witness a college football game in South Dakota history. The Bison have won seven FCS national championships and 29 games in a row.

NDSU is the two-time defending national champion, led by All-American senior defensive end Derrek Tuszka of Warner.

NDSU deserves all the recognition it gets on the national stage.

It was nice that the SDSU Jackrabbits got the opportunity to hop on that big stage as well. We hope the returns are bountiful in the years ahead.