Terry Woster: The winds of change
Moving to Division 1 athletics changed many things at South Dakota State University, but the quality of the northwest wind that hammers the campus in winter is the same as ever.
I learned that again during a family gathering back at the old school last weekend. No matter how many buildings are constructed, no matter how high or broad they stand, the winter wind finds a way to blast across campus. I doubt a wall of Donald Trump/Mexican border proportions would block that wind, unchanged since my Division 2 undergraduate days half a century ago.
I enrolled at South Dakota State while it was a college in 1963. The transition to university status happened under my watch. Coincidence? By my senior year I had replaced my SDSC sweatshirts with SDSU T-shirts. My diploma from spring of 1966 reads South Dakota State University, and that’s a proud thing.
It’s also a proud thing to have a Bachelor of Science in Arts and Sciences, as the diploma says. It doesn’t include my major -- printing and rural journalism. Kind of wish it did. Printing and rural journalism has an authentic, South Dakota farm-country ring, a ring that to my ears is lacking in the majors like “contemporary media’’ or “media and mass communications’’ at some J-schools today. Printing and rural journalism says, “Bam, dudes. I have marketable skills.’’
I found my diploma as I was cleaning my work area the other day. Shows you how often I clean. I never noticed until the other day that my first name is misspelled. My parents spelled it “Terence,’’ and the diploma reads “Terrence.’’ That’s OK, though, because the diploma is signed by the legendary President H.M. Briggs. The place has had its share of good leaders, but President Briggs, well, that guy was a president’s president.
I got to know him a bit after I left school and went to work as a legislative reporter for The Associated Press. We covered all of the Board of Regents meetings back then, so I became familiar with the guy. As a student, I was familiar only with the legend. In fact, I spoke to him just once in my time on campus. After a basketball game in the Barn, I met the parents of a friend from Sioux Falls, and they introduced me to the guy with them. He looked familiar, but I didn’t catch the name. I said so. He smiled and said, “Hilton Briggs, Terry.’’ Uh-huh. Good first impression.
The Barn no longer hosts varsity basketball. We watched pretty good ball there. I transferred to campus a year after the Jacks won the Division 2 national title in 1963, so they still had some great players. We didn’t have Frost Arena, a comparative glitter palace. Frost lacks the rustic, barn-dark atmosphere, but it has more seats, better lighting and a line to buy SDSU ice cream. I don’t think you can fall off the back of its bleachers at Frost. You could in the Barn.
The family watched basketball games last Saturday. We arrived early, and four of us decided to use the free time to check out the indoor track at the new athletic complex near the football stadium. I felt lost for a moment as we passed the west side of the stadium. The old visitors’ bleachers were gone, and a monster of a new seating area loomed over me.
We got to the southeast door and were told the entrance was through the northwest door. Sure, because it wouldn’t do that I could cross campus in winter and not have to walk head-first into a bitter wind the way I did 50 years ago going from Brown Hall to Ag Hall for biology lab. (Is it any wonder I sometimes cut?)
Last Saturday, I leaned into that familiar, obnoxious wind and wished we had stayed at Frost. Then I entered the athletic complex and walked into a carnival -- a marvelous indoor track, something like 1,400 athletes and a couple of thousand spectators. We couldn’t dream of such a thing back in my day.
Some things never change. Fortunately, some things do.