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Strategic Framework

More National Prominence for the Jackrabbit Nation:
A Strategic Framework for Becoming a Top-5 Rodeo Program
April 2024

Summary: 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, an area that has seen tremendous growth in the sport of rodeo during the past four decades. As a comprehensive Land Grant University, SDSU would be the premier location in this “new rodeo geography” for top-notch rodeo athletes who are also serious students desiring a broad range of academic and career opportunities. Equally important, elevating the SDSU program to national prominence would help keep South Dakota’s top high school talent from going to other states to pursue their rodeo and academic dreams. Attracting student-athletes from other states and keeping our home-grown rodeo talent within the state benefit South Dakota in terms of its future workforce and economic development needs.

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

The Impact: Top-5 stature would obviously 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. This also helps 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. Additionally, a special opportunity exists to create a strong synergistic relationship between SDSU’s Rodeo Program and tribal nations, via SDSU’s nationally renowned Wokini Initiative.

Of greatest importance is the fact the entire state of South Dakota benefits when more students from other states and more of our homegrown students attend SDSU and go on to live, work, start businesses, and raise families in South Dakota.

The Opportunity: 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 other Land-Grant Universities with rodeo programs most proximate to this large swath of the nation’s geography are still hundreds of miles farther 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 SDSU’s College of Agricultural, Food, and Environmental Sciences.

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 between South Dakota and the sport of rodeo. South Dakota is one of only three states to have designated rodeo as its state’s official sport.

Often a vision begins with a bold idea but nothing else. However, the Top-5 vision is clearly achievable as SDSU is uniquely positioned to capitalize on 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*.

What is needed is commitment and passion from the following: SDSU, the SDSU Foundation, the SDSU Alumni Association, 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 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.


Goal 1 — Facilities: Imagine a “rodeo campus” situated on approximately 30 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. In 2020 the South Dakota Board of Regents dedicated that amount of land for that purpose. Funds are now needed to build the necessary facilities on this dedicated parcel.

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 events. One supporter has pledged $10,000 annually for a 5-year period if other supporters will provide additional matching dollars to be able to underwrite the salary and benefits of a second full-time coach.

Goal 3 — Scholarships: Imagine an annual scholarship fund of approximately $200,000 split equally between men and women team members. This would be enough to cover in-state tuition, fees, and books for nearly twenty 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 Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado.

Goal 4 — An External Support Group: Imagine hundreds, and perhaps more, alumni and friends of the SDSU Rodeo Program who are members of the SDSU Rodeo Boosters. Such a group was formed in early 2024 as a successor to the SDSU Rodeo Coalition which had been working in support of SDSU rodeo since 2019. This new membership organization has different tiers of membership, and all tiers are recognized at every appropriate opportunity, including in the Jackrabbit Stampede program. The roles of the Boosters are to help (a) generate greater awareness of SDSU’s Top-5 opportunity, ( (b) generate financial and “political” support for the rodeo campus, an expanded coaching staff, and scholarships, and (c) support other needs such as travel for SDSU rodeo team members who qualify for the College National Finals Rodeo.

Goal 5 — The Team/Rodeo Club: Imagine a rodeo team of some fifty 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 fifty 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.

* 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).

Rodeo coalition recruiting map