Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
The Missouri football team kicks off its season Saturday, and, as with many Missouri season openers, the Tigers are playing a team you might not be entirely familiar with — South Dakota State.
So, let’s get you up to speed.
The Jackrabbits (colors: blue and yellow) play in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) and are currently 10th in the FCS coaches’ rankings. Last season, South Dakota State went 9-5 (14th in the final FCS coaches’ rankings) and was second in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, where they went 5-3. Its season ended with a loss to Eastern Washington in the second round of the FCS Playoffs.
South Dakota State is coached by John Steigelmeier, who is in his 17th year with the Jackrabbits. Quarterback Austin Sumner returns after throwing for 2,999 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2013. Top running threat Zach Zenner — 2,015 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2013 — returns as well.
The Jackrabbits averaged 28.9 points per game last season and allowed 23.6 points. They gave up 162.6 rushing yards and 219.5 passing yards per game.
Missouri faithful love to brag about their university’s Homecoming tradition. Per the NCAA, Missouri’s 1911 Homecoming was the very first Homecoming, and the tradition has become common at schools across the country.
A little less well known is the influence Missouri had on South Dakota State’s Homecoming tradition.
The Jackrabbit’s Homecoming, considered the “biggest one-day event in the Dakotas,” is called Hobo Day. The founder? Missouri alum Raymond Adams Dutcher. A South Dakota native, Dutcher got the idea from watching Missouri students dress up as homeless people as part of their own Homecoming celebration.
South Dakota State adopted the idea after its “Nightshirt Parade” — which was exactly what it sounds like — was considered too risque. South Dakota State held its first Hobo Day in 1912, and it has only been cancelled twice since (both due to World Wars).
A traditional South Dakota State Homecoming parade consists of marching students dressed like hobos — recent themes include “Peace, Love and Hobos,” “Night of the Living Hobos” and “007 Hobos Never Die” — and a Grand Pooba riding around in a 1912 Ford Model T known as the Bummobile.
So what ever happened to Missouri’s Hobo Day-inspiring festivities? They were called off because too many actual homeless people showed up, and the college students didn’t like it.
And if you need more Missouri connections: South Dakota State plays in the Missouri Valley Football Conference (formerly the Gateway Football Conference), which includes Missouri State and whose headquarters are located in St. Louis.
More interesting stuff about South Dakota State:
• The university is older than the state of South Dakota itself.
• Famous alumni include Super Bowl-winning kicker Adam Vinatieri, former Rams Pro Bowl lineman Adam Timmerman and former U.S. Senate majority leader Tom Daschle.
• The school is located in Brookings, S.D. The City of Brookings owns many in-town services such as the liquor store, the hospital, the local telephone service and the golf course.
• South Dakota State is the largest school in South Dakota.
• One origin theory for the Jackrabbit mascot: a Minneapolis journalist said the 1905 South Dakota State football team was fast as jackrabbits, a nod to the large number of such rabbits in Brookings.