SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) – After arriving home from a Disney World vacation on Sunday, University of South Dakota alumnus Eric Asmus, his wife, and two elementary school-aged kids watched the Coyotes’ NCAA Tournament upset at Baylor on TV.
Once Eric — a season ticket holder and tailgater for football and frequent men’s and women’s basketball game attendee — knew the school’s first-ever Sweet 16 game would be in Wichita this weekend, he wanted to take the family. But he thought it’d be a hard sell to convince his wife Chelsea to take the troops on a 7-hour road trip one week after the cross-country journey to Florida.
Not so much.
“She was like, ‘yeah,’ and I was like, ‘okay, let’s go, then’” Eric said, then quickly booked the hotel room and started making plans.
”It’s just a unique opportunity. You never know if you’re going to get a chance like that somewhere drivable again.”
About 150 USD fans traveled to Waco, Texas, for the first two rounds of the “Big Dance.”
The Asmuses are four of the over 1,500 Coyote fans who had bought tickets through the school by mid-afternoon Wednesday. A USD committee of athletic staff and alumni foundation directors put together an aggressive online and social media marketing campaign selling Yotes fans on their chance to see history — the school’s first-ever Sweet 16 game — and to turn InTrust Arena into Sanford Coyote Sports Center South by giving the women a home-court advantage.
It worked. Phones rang almost non-stop the last few days, and the school’s sports website was busy with online ticket orders of $25 per seat.
“I think that’s the big thing. Being in the Sweet 16, being closer,” USD athletics director David Herbster said, adding Coyote merchandise sales has skyrocketed, especially for Sweet 16-related apparel.
“This is one of those kind of historic times. There’s just so much energy around the NCAA Tournament as it is. Now, you slap on beating Ole Miss and beating Baylor and being in the Sweet 16, and this is something everyone wants to be a part of.”
By over 300 miles, USD is the closest of the four teams in this weekend’s regional to Wichita. Vermillion is 406 miles away — a 7-hour drive — while Louisville (716 miles), Tennessee (Knoxville, 848 miles), and Michigan (Ann Arbor, 935 miles).
Herbster also noted USD should get a boost from a decent alumni base in Omaha (less than a 5-hour drive) and Kansas City (less than 3 hours away). So, easily more than 2,000 Coyote crazies could be howling on Saturday night.
“I think there’s going to be a ton of Coyote fans in the arena, from what I’ve heard,” Eric said. “And think that’ll be a unique experience if USD fans can almost take over an arena at a neutral site.”
Herbster said the school offered fans to buy tickets via the athletic department, and once tickets were ordered, USD would then purchase that amount of tickets from InTrust Arena. This way, fans like the Asmuses would have a better chance of sitting in the same section as other Coyote fans.
But at the moment, Herbster said he is uncertain just how packed in together those fans who ordered those tickets will be because the arena has not told him. The other three schools are also trying to order swaths of tickets together, and he thinks there may be a few different swaths of red-and-white scattered throughout the arena in both upper and lower bowls. But fans will be notified of their seats once USD gets the word.
A win on Saturday against Michigan would keep the Yotes in Kansas for Monday’s “Elite Eight” round. Herbster said if this happens, ticket sales will be made available on Sunday morning, and fans who were already in Wichita for Saturday’s game could re-order the same seats they had.
Eric said the family won’t be able to make Monday’s game. It is headed back to Sioux Falls on Sunday no matter what.
A victory on Monday against either Louisville or Tennessee would mean a USD berth on college women’s sports’ biggest stage — next weekend’s Final Four, which is even closer to South Dakota than Wichita. It’s in Minneapolis, less than four hours from Sioux Falls and less than five hours from Vermillion.
Would the Asmus family take back-to-back road trips and a trip for a third consecutive weekend?
”It gets real complicated,” Eric said. “It’s definitely drive-able to Minneapolis, but then the kids’ activities get in the way the following weekend, so we’ll see. My guess is I’d be stuck watching on TV.”
After a pause, Eric made sure to add this, with both exclamation and a chuckle:
“Not that those activities aren’t important!”
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