2012: The Year That Was in Local Sports
Sioux Falls saw the first signs of the new Denny Sanford Events Center when ground was broken on the facility in August. The center will open in 2014.
The year began with the ushering in of a new era in high school football in South Dakota with the approval of the new Class AAA in January. Under the plan, the top 8 schools in enrollment would make up a seventh class of football, in effect separating the Sioux Falls and Rapid City public schools (and a handful of others) away from the other AA teams, which have been dominated in the past few years. As of now, one other school, O'Gorman has decided to petition up to play at the AAA level next season, leaving Brandon Valley the chance to move down to AA. The Lynx opted to stay put and now Watertown will have the chance to move to AA, which they are expected to make.
The year also began the South Dakota coaching eras of two men on opposite ends of the age spectrum: 63 year old Joe Glenn and 29 year old Joel Abelson. Glenn returned to his alma mater at the University of South Dakota to replace the fired Ed Meirkort. Glenn brought with him a wealth of head coaching experience in places like Montana and Northern Colorado, but his first Coyote team could manage just one win in his first season in Vermillion. Glenn's team was competitive, losing 5 games by a touchdown or less.
Abelson took over the helm of the Skyforce after a series of assistant coaching stops in the NBA D-league. His 'players first' approach and youthful enthusiasm have Sioux Falls off to a 7-4 start.
2012 also marked the first season for the University of Sioux Falls football in the Northern Sun conference and the Cougars were up to the challenge. Coach Jed Stuggart's team opened the season with an upset win on the road at nationally ranked St. Cloud State and finished the season 9-2, missing the D2 playoffs by one game.
END OF THE ROAD:
Hockey fans in the Sioux Empire were stunned at the end of the Stampede season when Head Coach Kevin Hartzell was let go after seven years, 224 wins, and a Clark Cup Championship. He was later replaced by University of North Dakota assistant Cary Eades.
Even more shocking was the abrupt departure of University of South Dakota David Sayler after a little more than two years on the job in Vermillion. Sayler accomplished a great deal in a short time, pulling off a last minute Coyotes to the Missouri Valley Conference in football, while overseeing coaching changes in football and women's basketball. Sayler is off to Miami of Ohio and the U is hoping to land an AD that lasts longer than a recruiting class.
The women's basketball opening in Vermillion came in May with Ryun Williams' departure to Colorado State. Williams led the Coyotes to a solid third place finish in their first ever Summit League season. South Dakota native and Oklahoma State and Tulsa assistant Amy Williams now has the job.
Two years ago the Augustana football team was a playoff team for the first time since 1989. Two disappointing seasons later, head coach Mike Aldrich was out of a job after three years, replaced by St. Olaf head coach Jerry Olszewski
In high school sports, South Dakota fans said goodbye to a pair of longtime coaches at the end of last season. Gary Munsen leaving Mitchell after nine state titles and more than 600 wins, while in Sioux Falls, Washington boys coach Jim Trett walked away after 18 seasons with the Warriors, 33 overall as a coach.
2012 was also the year some familiar foes got back together after a long absence. In football, South Dakota State and the University of South Dakota played for the first time in eight years with the Jacks winning 31-8.
The 'Battle of Sioux Falls' went to a whole new level with Augustana and the University of Sioux Falls meeting for the first time since the mid 80's and for the first time ever as conference foes. It was worth the wait as the teams played an instant classic - with the Cougars winning in double overtime.
In basketball, the University of South Dakota and South Dakota State resumed their rivalry in 2012. The men each winning on their home floor, the women doing the same.
South Dakota State Athletics laid claim to some impressive firsts. In March, the State men and women each won the Summit League basketball tournament in Sioux Falls, marking the first time both squads had advanced to the NCAA Division One tournament in the same season. The men were ousted in round one by Baylor, the women by Purdue.
2012 also saw a football first for the Jacks. South Dakota State's first ever home playoff game took place last month with a thumping of Eastern Illinois.
2013 you've got a tough act to follow!