SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — You could say Nancy McCahren was born to be a University of South Dakota Coyotes basketball fan.

McCahren’s dad Carl B. “Rube” Hoy was the USD men’s basketball coach from 1927-1949 and from 1952-1954.

McCahren knows at least one of her dad’s players would drive to her parent’s home and pick up her and her mom to take them to games.

She was three years old then. McCahren has been a loyal fan since those days.

“So that’s 83, 84 years of college basketball,” she said. To think of it, “My God, really, I’m 87 years old.”

McCahren can rattle off players and coaches from her 80 years as a fan. This season’s USD women’s team is also making an impression. The Coyotes will play Michigan in an NCAA Sweet Sixteen game on Saturday in Wichita, Kansas.

Some of today’s players have been part of the team for nearly six years, McCahren said.

The wins weren’t as plentiful when seniors like Regan Sankey, Hannah Sjerven, Liv Korngable and Chloe Lamb started out.

She recalled watching Lamb play for Sully Buttes High School in the South Dakota State Class B basketball tournament. After Lamb’s team won, McCahren said she prayed that Lamb would consider playing basketball at USD.

Lamb is one player and one story, McCahren said. She’s a fan of all the players and the coaching staff.

Longtime University of South Dakota basketball fan Nancy McCahren talks about this year’s Coyote women’s basketball team.

A birthday card to McCahren signed by all the players shows the team is a fan of McCahren’s.

The longtime fan once sat in the bleachers of the armory gym. She has a lifetime pass for a courtside seat now.

McCahren said she has not missed a home men’s or women’s basketball game this season. One particular good friend takes her from Sioux Falls to Vermillion for the games.

Whether she is watching from the sidelines or watching on TV, “I am coaching, teaching and playing the game,” she said with a laugh. But mostly, she’s cheering and not criticizing.

While her ties to men’s basketball go back many years, the ties to women’s basketball are more recent. USD started a women’s program for the 1971-1972 season.

The women’s team started a string of successful seasons as an NCAA Division II team in the early 1980s.

McCahren was there to see it.

Players on those successful 1980s and 1990s teams included Karrie Wallen, Katie Daily. In the early 2000s, Mandy Koupal was named the NCAA Division II player of the year twice.

McCahren was the alumni director during a chunk of those NCAA Division II years. Back then, she said, she was able to travel with the team to many tournament games.

She recalled eating ice cream with Koupal’s mom in Florida.

“Amy Williams. That’s when it became competitive in (Division I),” McCahren said. “(Williams) brought us to new heights.”

In 2015-2016, South Dakota defeated the Pac-12’s Oregon, 88-54 in the NIT tournament and eventually won the tournament that year with Williams as the coach.

Williams left USD for Nebraska in April of 2016. McCahren noted that Nebraska got beat in the NCAA tournament this year while USD is still playing.

This season, head coach Dawn Plitzuweit is leading the Coyotes in the NCAA tournament.

McCahren pointed out the team’s early-season losses to top-ranked South Carolina 81-71 in 2020-2021 and 72-41 early this season.

“You know (Coach Plitzuweit) had them playing South Carolina early on two years ago and last year. They played South Carolina for one reason, to learn some defense,” McCahren said.

The South Dakota State University women’s basketball team is doing well now in the NIT tournament, “but they don’t play defense like USD,” McCahren said.

Defense has been a key to USD’s success, she said.

McCahren has forged many connections with players and coaches over the years. She watched as a kid, graduated from USD was also an instructor in the English department in addition to being alumni director.

She regularly bakes cookies for teams. She made sure to bake a bunch for the women’s team before the recent road trip.

Her goal has always been to support the students from encouragement to help them improve to giving a hug when one was needed, McCahren said.

“That university is my life. That’s why I miss it so much,” McCahren said.

She hadn’t planned to be in Wichita on Saturday for the USD game. However, her son surprised her with tickers so now McCahren will be in attendance.

“I will be cheering them on,” McCahren said. She may not be courtside but it will be different sidelines of sorts.

Because on the sidelines as a fan is “where I belong.”