USD Volleyball Team

Members of the University of South Dakota volleyball team react to their name being called during the Coyotes’ NCAA Tournament watch party Sunday in Vermillion. The Coyotes earned a tournament berth by winning the Summit League Volleyball Tournament on Saturday. They will face the University of Minnesota on Friday in Minneapolis.

VERMILLION — Even before taking the field last Saturday, the University of South Dakota football team came out a winner in one aspect.

USD hosted Southern Illinois in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), marking the Coyotes’ first D-I home playoff contest.

In addition, Saturday’s game marked the first home football playoff contest in 35 years. The 1986 team advanced to the NCAA Division II national championship game.

But hosting a FCS playoff game isn’t just a matter of wins and losses. The site selection literally becomes a matter of “show me the money.”

And in that respect, the Coyotes and their fans came through, according to USD Athletic Director David Herbster.

“We do have to submit bids for each round of the playoffs through the semi-finals. The bids are based off expected tickets sales minus any expenses incurred to put on the game,” he said.

“Those were due a week before our last regular season game. With those (numbers) in hand, the committee knows what they are working with when bids are announced and site locations are determined.”

With the Coyotes remaining home, the team didn’t face flights, hotel stays and other distractions, particularly during the Thanksgiving weekend.

The USD coaching staff kept the players on their Game Day schedule for the playoff contest, Herbster said. The team practiced Friday morning, which consisted of mostly a walk through. The players ate dinner about 5:30 p.m. and went to team meetings afterward.

“We kept the week as normal as possible for them,” he said.

The USD athletic department was dealing with two major events at once. While hosting the FCS playoffs in the DakotaDome, the university was also hosting the Summit League volleyball tournament Thursday through Saturday at the neighboring Sanford Coyote Sports Center (SCSC).

The Coyote volleyball team took advantage of the home court, claiming the conference title and punching its ticket to the NCAA tournament. The team travels to the Minneapolis region for a first-round matchup with the No. 12 ranked University of Minnesota.

The clash is set for 7 p.m. Friday, with the Coyotes taking a 20-9 record into the opening round.

Last week’s home contests for the football and volleyball teams produced a great deal of excitement for Coyote fans who could take in both events.

With USD offering separate facilities, hosting both the football and volleyball action at the same time went smoothly, Herbster said.

Planning for the Summit League volleyball tournament has been going on for months, Herbster said, leaving him confident it would run smoothly even with the addition of last Saturday’s football game.

“Where we (had) our work cut out for us (was) Saturday because of the back-to-back games,” he said, noting parking, staffing, ticketing and other production was “stretched.”

However, the additional planning and legwork was well worth it in order to host a FCS playoff contest, Herbster said.

“It is something very special to host a home playoff game, and something to not take for granted,” he said. “The fact that it’s been 35 years between hosting a game makes the opportunity to host it this year that much more special.”

The Coyotes came out on the short end of the scoreboard by a 22-10 margin, ending the season with a 7-5 record. However, qualifying for the playoffs and hosting a playoff game marked a huge accomplishment for the team, Herbster said.

USD officials are hoping FCS playoff action becomes an annual tradition at the DakotaDome.

Last Saturday’s game, focusing national attention on the university, served as a reward for a highly-successful season, Herbster said.

“This team deserved a home game, and I am so grateful that we were able to do that,” he said.

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