BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota State University’s football team is preparing for a big game Saturday as they head into the second round of the FCS playoffs.
The Jacks are the number one seed and received a first-round bye. If they keep winning, all playoff games will be in Brookings through the semifinals.
The average attendance per regular season home game for the Jacks has been over 15,000 fans this year. And while historically playoff games are not well attended in Brookings, the program hopes the momentum will carry over into the postseason.
This regular season was the best attended in Jackrabbit football history, ranking just behind the 2016 season when Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium first opened.
Senior associate athletic director Jeff Holm says you could feel the momentum when they transitioned to the new facility.
“It has certainly been increasing the amount of interest, and the amount of excitement has increased steadily, and we look to improve upon that,” Holm said.
The stadium’s capacity is just over 19,300. This year’s game against in-state rival USD was a sellout at 19,332. That’s just the second sellout in SDSU history following the NDSU game in 2019 when ESPN’s College Gameday was in town.
Hobo Day this year versus Indiana State was not far behind with 19,041 fans in the stands.
“To have the attendance record broke this year is very honoring for our football program, and for me as head coach, for our coaching staff, because that means people are interested in your product and they’re showing up. We obviously had some great weather, but we had great attendance. Great support,” head coach John Stiegelmeier said.
“It definitely brings a lot of juice to us. It makes us feel like people are recognizing kind of the work we’ve been putting in, and we obviously just want to make everybody proud and it’s been really cool to see,” senior Mason McCormick said.
While many would argue offering across the board beer sales for the first time drove up attendance numbers, Coach Stig points to the Jacks’ success this season.
“Who knows what alcohol sales did, but I know we’ve been highly ranked most of the year. I think people want to see a winner, see good football and our guys do that, so we’ll take the people for whatever reason they come,” he said.
In the Division I era, the Jacks are 9-1 at home in the playoffs. Not including the 2021 spring season because COVID-19 limited attendance, there have been seven home playoff games since 2012 with an average of attendance of 4,921 per game.
The Jacks are hoping to keep the numbers high this postseason and boost the home field advantage.
“In order to get to where they want us to go and we want to go, it’s going to take a great effort from everybody for sure,” McCormick said.
“It’s playoff football, and so their attendance, their noise, just their presence when we walk out of the locker room is a huge motivating factor. And so everybody knows how to handle the cold in South Dakota. Come show up and support the Jacks,” Stiegelmeier said.
The Jacks will get started in the FCS playoffs on Saturday with a 2:00 p.m. kick versus Delaware, and if they keep winning in the playoffs, every game will be played at home.