BROOKINGS – Jimmy Rogers was named the 21st head coach of South Dakota State football on Friday morning after John Stiegelmeier retired on Thursday evening after holding the title for 26 years.
Rogers, who has been an assistant under Stiegelmeier for the past nine seasons, played linebacker for SDSU from 2006-09.
“I’m extremely proud to be the next head football coach here at South Dakota State,” Rogers said. “At 17 years old, South Dakota State wasn’t a dream of mine, but 17 years later, I can say that my reality has become a dream. It truly has, and it’s because of the people I’ve had in my life, the relationships that I’ve built, the mentors I’ve had and the relationships that will last a lifetime.”
The Jackrabbits won their first national championship in football on Jan. 8 as they beat North Dakota State, 45-21, in Frisco, Texas. SDSU went 14-1 in the 2022 season, but Rogers says that’s in the past.
“The 2022 season is one I’ll cherish forever,” he said. “We were 14-1 and, in the playoffs, we dominated our opponent (by outscoring them 168-66) and we beat every team in the playoffs by more than 21 points. We’re national champions. And as I said to the team last night, this is 2023 and this is a new era of football. We’re not going to measure success here because of wins and losses. I want to win because we gave everything we have and the only way I know what that looks like is truly pushing yourself to the limits of who you are and exhausting yourself until you have nothing left.
“… I want to win, don’t get me wrong, I do. But the real purpose of competition isn’t just to win, it’s to test the limits of the human art and to push yourself beyond the boundaries of who you are, and I plan to do that. Next year, you’ll see a spirited team, you got a taste of that with the defense and how we played this season, and I’m just happy to be able to put that touch the rest of the team as well. We made a statement in the 2022 season, but as I said to the team, that statement is now the standard and we plan to uphold that.”
The transition from Stiegelmeier to Rogers has been in the works for a few years. Stiegelmeier said he met with SDSU athletic director Justin Sell and school president Barry Dunn a few years ago and he told them that once he retired, he wanted to make sure that one of his assistants took over. He gave them a list of names and they realized that Rogers was the right guy for the job.
“I'm really excited [for Rogers],” Stiegelmeier said. “You know, he's got a good program to start with. He's a great leader. He's, he's paid his dues. And when I say that, that's magnified exponentially. He's turned down things for this dream to happen. I preached, pursue your dreams, so I couldn't be happier. This is happening for him and our entire football family.”
Sell became the athletic director in 2009, the same year that Rogers graduated, and he said the relationship that he has built with Rogers is what made it an easy decision to keep the replacement of Stiegelmeier in-house.
“I think first, you just saw how [Rogers] handled [the press conference], and he makes you want to run through that door and go do something great, whatever that is,” Sell said. “I just know from my experience with him when I got here, I have faculty that would say, I wish I had 30 Jimmy Rogers in my class. We did a 50-year coffin alumni team in 2012 and guess who's on it, Jimmy Rogers. For the undersized guy that wasn't recruited, you know, when you talk about a heart and a passion.
“And then for me, he's a lifelong learner. He wants to continue to grow and learn, and even just in this last week of kind of working through some of the details, we've obviously had coaches that have taken other positions, trying to get practices, or at least the guys settled with workouts, and what we're going to do this spring, his ability to manage all of that with a laser focus, and he’s very thoughtful.
“And then the thing that public doesn't see is he's actually he's an emotional guy, but he's thoughtful, he's funny, you know, you kind of get the impression, he's his middle linebacker coach that's going run through a brick wall every day, and he has that, but he also has a softer side. I think that's where, you know, his family has certainly helped him in regard to that, and understanding, linking all those lessons that he learned here, and being able to apply that to his life. So, he is absolutely the perfect person to keep the culture that we have here, but to modernize it. We have to get better to win a second [national championship] going to be way harder than winning the first, and he's exactly the type of person that can help us accomplish those goals.”
As of right now, SDSU has not released its full 2023 nonconference schedule. We know that the Jacks will be hosting Montana State on Sept. 9 and Drake on Sept. 16, but SDSU has to schedule one more game, which will likely be played on Sept. 2 as the Jacks are scheduled to have a bye on Sept. 23.
Rogers, a native of Chandler, Arizona, closed the press conference on Friday morning with thoughts of how the SDSU football program has changed since he arrived in Brookings in 2006.
“It’s changed dramatically,” Rogers said. “It’s changed from the facilities that have been put forth here, it’s changed over the years with the spirit of what the team expects, you know, when I was a player here, we had a goal to win a championship, but we made the play [FCS] playoffs for the first time in 2009. After that, we’ve made the playoffs every year, with the exception of two seasons.
“Making the playoffs wasn’t a thought anymore, it was always winning a national championship and doing it the right way. … But we’re not done, and I want to make sure everybody understands that. We’re building. … If you know me at all, I’m not settling on one [championship]. I told Payton Schaefer, who’s a linebacker that’s currently on the team, I told him that he’s the first linebacker to leave with a national championship and he’ll be the last one to leave with only one.”