Cinderella Stories: South Dakota State

March, 18, 2013
3/18/13
12:05
PM ET
South Dakota State Jackrabbits mascot Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesThis rabbit from Brookings, S.D., wasn't always the face of its aggie-centric college.
The 68-team field is set, the bracket is out, and the NCAA tournament soon will begin. Before the final 64 take the court on Thursday and Friday, Playbook has chosen a few small schools to examine a bit closer, taking a look at their exploits inside sports -- and far away from the fields of play. Click here for more Cinderella Stories.

The South Dakota State Jackrabbits are no stranger to the NCAA tournament; the team reached this level a year ago. They're no stranger to ESPN-affiliated web pages; Grantland spent a week with the team in 2012. They also feature a famous name, at least in sports annals -- senior guard Nate Wolters is among the nation's leading scorers, and is one of the most recognizable non-major conference players in the nation.

But there's a lot more to the small Brookings, S.D., school than the 13th-seed hoopsters, who will play the Michigan Wolverines on Thursday in the South region.

• You'll likely see a lot of South Dakota State this March/April, no matter which game you watch, no matter what level. The reason: Daktronics, whose scoreboards and other electronic displays have flooded stadiums -- and other venues -- worldwide since the company's inception in 1968, was started by SDSU professors Aelred Kurtenbach and Duane Sander.

• Another mechanical marvel out of Brookings: the Briggs & Stratton engine, a mainstay in outdoor equipment (e.g. lawnmowers), which was co-designed by South Dakota State grad Stephen F. Briggs, who had developed the prototype in an on-campus engineering lab.

• OK, one more engineering achievement: cookies and cream (aka Oreo) ice cream, which was invented at the SDSU Dairy Plant (so the school says -- others have staked claims).

• Jackrabbits are native to the Mount Rushmore State, and have served as the college's nickname since 1907. Before then? They were the Barnyard Cadets, which makes sense -- what with those agricultural advances (plus, the school was once known as the South Dakota State College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts).

• SDSU hosts what is known as the biggest one-day event in the state: Hobo Day, a celebration that turned 100 last year and features the aptly named "Bummobile," as well as a pair of alumni disguised as Weary Wil and Dirty Lil.

• More noteworthy graduates include Ben Reifel, the first Lakota Sioux elected to Congress (he served five terms in the House), and Tom Daschle, the former Senate minority leader who spent 18 years in office.

• Three noteworthy SDSU athletes had winning (and Pro Bowl) careers on the gridiron: Jim Langer, the starting center on the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins; Adam Timmerman, a guard who won Super Bowls with the Green Bay Packers and St. Louis Rams; and Adam Vinatieri, the only kicker to claim four Super Bowls (three with the New England Patriots, one with the Indianapolis Colts).

• Making the most of SDSU's recent move to Division I: the women's basketball team, the 2013 Summit League champ that has reached the NCAA tournament in its first five years of eligibility (a record). Coach Aaron Johnston also guided the Jackrabbits to the 2003 Division II national title.
Patrick Dorsey works for SportsNation. He has worked for the Web and newspapers, had a cup of craft service coffee in film school, and played in one Division III golf tournament (he shot 105).

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