Man who led South Dakota in defeat of NDSU for 2023 national crown to speak March 12

John Stigelmeier, holding the national trophy after his South Dakota State University football team won the title. He will be speaking in Pelican Rapids March 12. PHOTOS COURTESY SOUTH DAKOTA STATE U

The most famous South Dakota coach in the state’s history is coming to Pelican Rapids. 

Everybody’s invited—including disgruntled North Dakota State University Bison fans. 

The American Football Coaches Association “Coach of the Year,” John Stiegelmeier, will be speaking in Pelican March 12, 7 p.m., at the Pelican High School Fine Arts Auditorium.

Booking “Stig,” only months after he and his Jackrabbits took the national stage in South Dakota State’s victory over the NDSU Bison, is a triumph for Pelican’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter. His appearance here is co-sponsored by the Pelican High School. 

No tickets are needed, and the event is open to the public, noted John Eidsness, himself a South Dakota native and resident on Tamarac Lake. Eidsness, a retired coach and educator—including a tenure as Concordia College basketball coach, was instrumental in bringing Stiegelmeier to Pelican. Actually, this is the second time Eidsness has gently coerced the 26-year SDSU head football coach to Pelican. 

John Stiegelmeier, legendary South Dakota State University head football coach, will be the guest speaker March 12, hosted by the local Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Pelican High School.

“(Stiegelmeier) has never declined an invitation to speak at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes event,” said Edisness—if it is within his schedule and travel range. 

Stigelmeier is a classic example of a guy retiring on top. After winning the Jackrabbits’ first-ever FCS title, Sigelmeier announced his retirement earlier this year. 

Stigelmeier leaves the gridiron with 199 victories, 12 postseason appearances, and a national championship. 

“(Wife) Laurie and I, with our family, want to thank South Dakota State University and SDSU Athletics for being blessed to serve as the head football coach,” Stiegelmeier said in an article from the SDSU athletics website. “During our 26 years in this role, a lifetime of memories have occurred. The support of so many, including three university presidents, numerous assistant coaches, countless student-athletes, two athletic directors, and the Jackrabbit fan base, has been so special.” 

Longtime assistant coach and current defensive coordinator Jimmy Rogers succeeds Stiegelmeier as head coach.

The winningest coach in program history, Stiegelmeier compiled a 199-112 record (.640 winning percentage) from 1997-2022. The Jackrabbits competed at the NCAA Division II level before embarking on a move to NCAA Division I and the Football Championship Subdivision in 2004. 

Overall, Stiegelmeier’s teams posted winning records in 22 of his 26 seasons. The Jackrabbits began their current streak of 11 consecutive Football Championship Subdivision playoff appearances in 2012, and advanced to at least the semifinal round in five of the last six seasons. SDSU made two appearances in the FCS national title game, falling to Sam Houston, 23-21, during the 2020-21 spring season and defeating archrival North Dakota State, 45-21, in January 2023.

He also won the Missouri Valley Conference and the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year honors in 2023. 

In 15 seasons competing in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, the Jackrabbits never finished below .500 in league play. Stiegelmeier led SDSU to an 84-34 record (.712 winning percentage) in MVFC games and claimed league titles in 2016, 2020-21, and 2022. The Jackrabbits earned their first outright MVFC title in 2022 as they completed a perfect 8-0 mark in league play as part of a school-record 14-game winning streak they will carry into next season. 

Stieglemeier’s 84 wins in MVFC play, as well as his 131 overall wins since joining the league in 2008, both rank second in league history. 

Prior to joining the MVFC, Stiegelmeier’s 2007 squad won the Great West Football Conference title, marking the Jackrabbits’ first conference title in football in 44 years. Two seasons later, SDSU made its first appearance in the FCS playoffs. 

Besides excelling on the field, Stiegelmeier’s teams also made their mark in the classroom and in the community. SDSU received the MVFC Team Academic Award nine times, and Jackrabbit student-athletes combined to receive Academic All-America honors 31 times during his tenure. 

A home state boy, from Selby, South Dakota, Stiegelmeier has been associated with Jackrabbit football for more than 35 years, starting as a student assistant under John Gregory on SDSU’s lone NCAA Division II playoff-qualifying team in 1979. He returned to Brookings in 1988.