Writer in Washington rips SDSU Jacks, Sioux Falls sports personalities respond

Published: Mar. 15, 2017 at 8:11 PM CDT
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A writer from "The Independent" in Chewelah, Washington published a story that bullied the South Dakota State Jackrabbits, their mascot, Sioux Falls and the Summit League tournament. Now, locals and Sioux Falls sports personalities are upset he got his facts wrong.

They told KSFY News, the article titled, "The Lead: Yeah, Gonzaga is going to win their first game" by managing editor Brandon Hansen, was likely meant to be satirical, but came off as brash and uneducated.

Their immediate reaction?

"I got angry," said Greg Belfrage, host of the Belfrage Show on KELO-AM, and a Sioux Falls native. "I take those things personally."

"It's one thing to be a fan of Gonzaga and you think Gonzaga is going to beat the Jackrabbits and you make a case from a sports perspective," he explained.

"You can take a shot at somebody, if you've got your facts right," Jeff Harkness, senior content contributor at ESPN Radio 99.1 Sioux Falls said.

He and producer Todd Epp, along with Harkness, all agreed: Hansen didn't do his research.

"It's just lazy," Harkness said. "The fact is we've got a really good thing going here, and a lot of conferences as good as the Summit League, would kill to have what we have here in Sioux Falls."

Harkness cited last year's slip-up by ESPN anchor Scott Van Pelt, who called SDSU, "San Diego State" during a broadcast last year, then apologized and wore Jacks' team apparel on air to make up for the misnomer. He also cited a Salt Lake City paper that used a photo of a University of South Dakota player in an article about SDSU just last week.

"They [the national media] don't care to check into someone they think is going to be a one and done," Harkness said. "The problem is now, we've had, since 2009, every single year since 2009, we've had a men's or women's team [in the tournament]. By now I think they might've figured it out."

Not only that, but Harkness pointed out SDSU was tied for 4th in the league and was 4th-seeded in the tournament, but Hansen said they were, "6th seeded," and posed the question of, "How bad does that league have to be for a six seed to win its tournament? Well the same league that plays its postseason tournament in Sioux Falls, South Dakota."

Then they took issue with Hansen ripping Sioux Falls.

"This guy's in a town of 2,700 people in Washington state," said Belfrage. "If Washington didn't have mountains, Chewelah wouldn't have a skyline."

"He didn't have his facts straight," Epp said. "He's probably never been to Sioux Falls I've never been to Chewelah --but I'm not going to say its a nice place--I've never been there."

"To call the Jackrabbits a bad team i just thought was demonstrably untrue," Epp said.

"It was making fun of the Sioux Falls skyline," said Belfrage.

"Some of the mean-spirited stuff about the Summit League and about our town some of it was just factually incorrect," Harkness said. "If you had done even just a modest amount of checking, you would've realized its a much bigger deal here than people give it credit for."

One of Hansen's main digs was at the Summit League being in Sioux Falls.

"The problem is that we outdrew all those tournaments, we outdrew -- well the West Coast Conference where Gonzaga played," Harkness explained, "we outdrew them by 7,000 for the championship game here and we had even a bigger crowd the night before from the semifinals."

What would they like to say to Hansen?

"We would love to have Brandon come on The Belfrage Show, and we'd roll out the red carpet -- or in this case, the blue and gold carpet -- we might even buy him t-shirt," Epp said. "Maybe take him to Minervas, if the company would pay for it, and we would be very nice to Brandon. He wouldn't have anything to worry about. I know he comes from a little town -- he might be scared about coming to the big city."

"I initially thought I wanted to invite him here, but I think I'm just going to live in his small little town," Harkness said. "Keep in mind, this is a guy who lives in a town with 2,600 people, and he's taking a shot at the largest city in a very large region, which is a progressive town, which is bringing new things all the time, it has a lot to offer.

"He can sit back and enjoy all the attention he's getting, because we're going to forget about him, long after these successful tournaments keep coming to town. He'll be an afterthought."