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Strategic Framework

More National Prominence for the Jackrabbit Nation:
A Strategic Framework for Becoming a Top-5 Rodeo Program 
September 2023


While SDSU’s geographic location was once a liability in attracting top rodeo talent, its location is now a huge asset. There are no nationally prominent rodeo programs east of the 100th meridian and north of the Mason-Dixon line (see map on pp. 4). As a comprehensive Land Grant University, SDSU would be the only game in town in this targeted geography for top-notch rodeo athletes who are also serious students desiring a broad range of academic and career opportunities.

Our vision is for SDSU to be recognized nationally as a Top-5 collegiate rodeo program.

Top-5 stature would be important to those student athletes who directly benefit. However, the vision, mission, and goals articulated in this short document are not only about the student athletes. Equally important is supporting and helping SDSU with its broader needs and aspirations. For example, a Top-5 rodeo program would have a positive impact on student enrollment, especially from the targeted recruiting areas.

It would also bring untold recognition to SDSU that would extend far beyond the rodeo community. Finally, a special opportunity exists to create a strong synergistic relationship between SDSU’s Rodeo Program and the Wokini Initiative.

Often a vision begins with a bold idea but nothing else. However, the Top-5 vision is achievable as it builds upon three assets already in place: SDSU’s geographic location, its stature as a comprehensive Land Grant University, and a rodeo program with tradition and one that functions well despite limited resources.

Taking SDSU rodeo to the next level is clearly achievable.

What is needed is commitment and passion from the following: the SDSU Rodeo Coalition*, SDSU, the SDSU Foundation. and the SDSU Rodeo Boosters. If any one of these four partners do not pull their weight a Top-5 program will not happen.

In this case, a well-known adage needs to be turned on its head to read:

“There is a way, if there is a will.”

*The SDSU Rodeo Coalition held its first meeting in Sioux Falls on Jan. 23, 2019. Current participants are Phil Baird (Mission), David Chicoine (Brookings), Sam Cordes (Chicago), Kirk Cordes (Rapid City), Patty Dewey (Rapid City), Dana Dykhouse (Sioux Falls), Craig Korkow (Omaha), Cheryl Porch (Wanblee), Don Reichert (Sioux Falls), Dave Sietsema (Mitchell), Jamie Thompson (Brookings), Julie Thorstenson (Eagle Butte), Boyd Waara (Philip), Mary Williams (Wall), Myron Williams (Wall) and Jim Woster (Sioux Falls). Don Reichert and Sam Cordes serve as co-leaders of the Coalition.

The Opportunity:

The sport of rodeo is an American tradition with origins in the cattle industry of the Southwestern and Western U.S. Historically, almost all the top rodeo talent came from these regions. However, that has changed dramatically over the past several decades. For example, at the professional level, ten World Champions were crowned in December 2018. All ten were from east of the 100th meridian with two from our neighbor to the east: Iowa. As another example and at a different level of competition, the 2018 National High School Champion in bareback riding was from New York.

SDSU’s geographic location is ideally suited to attract that segment of young rodeo talent interested in collegiate rodeo who live east of the 100th meridian and north of the Mason Dixon Line. The two Land-Grant Universities with strong and well-endowed rodeo programs most proximate to this large swath of the nation’s geography are still hundreds of miles away: Montana State University and the University of Wyoming. Two closer and smaller institutions that have strong rodeo programs are Missouri Valley College (Marshall, MO) and the University of Tennessee-Martin (Martin, TN). They recruit heavily from this “new rodeo geography”. However, SDSU provides a much broader scope of academic offerings than either of these institutions, including offerings from a College of Agricultural, Food, and Environmental Sciences.

In short, SDSU is uniquely positioned to capitalize on three assets: its geographic location, its stature as a comprehensive Land Grant University, and a rodeo program that has a long history and a respectable level of success despite limited resources*. A Top-5 rodeo program would add to SDSU’s growing national presence in other athletic endeavors such as FCS football, men’s and women’s basketball, and wrestling. It also fits with the long-standing love affair South Dakota has with the sport of rodeo. South Dakota is one of only three states to have designated rodeo as its state’s official sport.

The development of a Top-5 rodeo program would attract additional students. This is an important consideration, given recent enrollment trends. Finally, the development of a Top-5 rodeo program would link nicely to SDSU’s pathbreaking Wokini Initiative, given the considerable amount of rodeo talent in the Native American community, including the nine tribal nations within South Dakota.

The next page of this short document articulates the vision and mission of a Top-5 rodeo program. Five goals for such a program are also articulated. These goals are based on extensive research of other colleges and universities that have achieved national prominence in the sport of rodeo.

The Vision:

To be recognized nationally as a Top-5 collegiate rodeo program.

The Mission:

The mission of the South Dakota State University rodeo program is to provide an exceptional collegiate rodeo experience to talented student-athletes of strong character who are serious students and committed to graduating with a marketable degree from SDSU, a comprehensive and highly regarded land-grant university.

* The Program began in 1952. The Stampede has been named the Great Plains Region ‘Rodeo of the Year’ in seven of the past 12 years. Coach Skovly was named the Great Plains Region ‘Coach of the Year’ in 2010 when the SDSU women’s team was the Reserve National Champion. Seven team members have won national titles in their respective events: Carlee Overby (1964), Don Reichert (1966 and 1968), Tammy Wink (1985), Seth Alan Weishaar (1992), Kristie Price (1994), Tabitha J. Sigman (2004), and Rachel L. Tiedeman (2009).


Goal 1—Facilities: Imagine a “rodeo campus” situated on approximately 35 acres near Brookings with stables for team members’ horses and equipment; pens to hold practice livestock; parking space for horse trailers; a storage area for hay, straw and maintenance equipment; two outdoor arenas; and one large indoor arena with offices for coaching personnel, rooms for team meetings, and an area for recognizing sponsors, supporters, and SDSU’s most famous rodeo athletes.

Goal 2—Personnel: Imagine a full-time coach, a full-time assistant coach, and part-time student help (perhaps a graduate student) to help both the coaches and the Faculty Advisor with a range of activities such as Buckles and Bling, the Jackrabbit Stampede, team travel, recruiting, a booster club, and promotion/marketing. The division of labor between the two coaches might be one for the men’s team and the other for the women’s team, or one for rough stock events and the other for timed event.

Goal 3—Scholarships: Imagine an annual scholarship fund of $170,000 split equally between men and women team members. This would be enough to cover in-state tuition, fees, and books for about 17 rodeo athletes. Obviously, if partial scholarships were made available even more students would be recipients of rodeo scholarships. Note that “in-state” tuition and fees extend to residents of Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, and to the children of SDSU alumni. Residents of Minnesota pay only about $600 over in-state rates.

Goal 4—An External Support Group: Imagine hundreds, and maybe more, alumni and friends of the SDSU Rodeo Program who are members of a formal organization, perhaps called the SDSU Rodeo Boosters. This membership organization would have different tiers of membership, but all tiers would be recognized at every appropriate opportunity, including in the Jackrabbit Stampede program. The roles of the Boosters would be to help (a) generate greater awareness of SDSU’s Top-5 opportunity, (b) identify and recruit top rodeo talent, (c) generate financial and “political” support for the rodeo campus, an expanded coaching staff, and scholarships, and (d) support other needs such as travel for SDSU rodeo team members who qualify for the College National Finals Rodeo. In doing so, the Boosters would also become synergistic with a revitalized Steers for State program, a program that has provided important scholarship support for SDSU rodeo athletes.

Goal 5--The Team/Rodeo Club: Imagine a rodeo team of some 50 student-athletes who possess outstanding rodeo talent and are supported by two coaches, a large and active Rodeo Club, and a state-of-the-art rodeo campus. Team members are expected to be serious students who represent SDSU in an exemplary fashion both inside and outside the arena. Most of these student-athletes will be recruited from South Dakota, eastern North Dakota, eastern Nebraska and from states to the east of these three states. Special efforts will be made to tap into the rodeo talent in tribal nations and to support this talent in their quest to gain a college education.

Further imagine a Rodeo Club of some 50 non-team students, some of whom are quite talented rodeo athletes, but for one reason or another do not wish to compete. They, and other students who have an affinity to the sport of rodeo and its culture, and want to be active in the Rodeo Club, would be encouraged to do so. Their activities would include assistance with various tasks at the rodeo campus; helping to promote the Team, the Jackrabbit Stampede, and Buckles and Bling; providing input, ideas, and guidance to the SDSU Rodeo Boosters and the SDSU Rodeo Coalition; organizing and sponsoring social events apart from Buckles and Bling; educating the public about the sport of rodeo; and engaging in general community betterment activities in Brookings and the surrounding area. The goal would be for the Rodeo Club to be one of the largest, most respected, and most active student clubs at SDSU.

Rodeo coalition recruiting map