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Volume 21 No. 34
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Plugged In: Justin Sell, South Dakota State

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Justin Sell is accustomed to being on the road in March. The athletic director at South Dakota State has both the men’s and women’s basketball teams in the NCAA tournament for the fourth time since 2012 after both won the Summit League tournament. Sell, who was named AD there in 2009, was able to witness the Jackrabbits win the men’s and women’s conference tournaments last week — both events were played in the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls. This week is sure to be more challenging, but if the schedule permits, Sell says he’ll be on hand to see both teams open the NCAAs.

It’s changed our university. When you look at applications, interest, merchandise, web hits, it amplifies everything. We’re sitting on another great opportunity.
Justin Sell
Athletic director, South Dakota State

On what the last week has been like: The conference tournaments were high intensity and they’re played in full buildings. If there’s 10,000 people here, about 8,000 are pulling for the Jackrabbits. You’ve got this swell of emotion, but at the same time, because the Summit is traditionally a one-bid league, you don’t want to let them down.


On the logistics of multiple teams in the postseason: We’re fortunate that we have some practice at this. But you also have to consider that we’ve got our wrestling team at NCAAs in Cleveland. So, we’re mapping out the schedule so we can try to be at all of our events.


On what makes South Dakota State unique: Well, having such a unique mascot lends itself to having a unique brand. One thing that we’re really proud of is having a 3.29 grade-point average across 540 student athletes, ranging from nursing to engineering, biology, pre-med. In today’s sports world, to know that we’re doing it the right way and still competing at a high level, that is something to be proud of. Brookings is also home to Daktronics, and this is where cookies-and-creme ice cream was invented.


On his podcast: It’s been going three years. There are just so many good stories to tell from our athletes, coaches, faculty, donors, our president. Through all of these stories, I think you can get a good sense of our values, and our fans can kind of get inside the head of some of our athletes. … It’s a great tool to reach our fans, but it takes some time. You’ve got to work at it. When you flip sides and become the one asking the questions, you’ve got to be prepared.


On competitive success sparking talk of jumping from FCS to FBS: We just went from Division II to Division I 10 years ago, so we’re still relatively new at this so, no, I don’t think so. We’ve tried to prepare for the future. We recently built a 20,000-seat football stadium that can go to 40,000. But jumping up another level is something we’ll probably leave to the next generation. We’re happy where we’re at.

— Michael Smith