Head Coach John Stiegelmeier
John Stiegelmeier, the winningest football coach in South Dakota State history, has built the Jackrabbit program into a yearly contender within the Missouri Valley Football Conference and the Football Championship Subdivision.
Overall, Coach Stig has led the Jackrabbits to a 137-94 record (.593 winning percentage) in 20 seasons. With Stiegelmeier at the helm, SDSU has reached the FCS playoffs six times (2009, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016) and is one of only four FCS programs to reach the postseason each of the past five seasons. The Jackrabbits won playoff contests in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2016, and have finished in the top 25 of both major FCS polls in eight of the last 11 seasons.
The 2016 Bruce Craddock Missouri Valley Football Conference Coach of the Year, Stiegelmeier led the Jackrabbits to their first league title, finishing with a 7-1 record in league play and earning a first-round bye in the FCS playoffs. Stiegelmeier’s 49 victories in MVFC play rank fourth in league history, while his 69 overall wins since joining the league in 2008 also are fourth among all-time league coaches. SDSU has never had a losing record in MVFC play in the nine seasons it has played in arguably the toughest FCS conference.
Stiegelmeier passed Ralph Ginn (113-89-9 record from 1947-68) atop the Jackrabbit career victories list on Sept. 20, 2014, when the Jackrabbits defeated Wisconsin-Oshkosh, 41-3, at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium. Coach Stig also was presented with the Ralph Ginn Award for Coaching Excellence, which is presented annually to an SDSU alumnus, by his alma mater during the 2014 season.
Under Stiegelmeier’s leadership, SDSU has posted 11 winning seasons in the school’s 13 campaigns at the FCS (formerly Division I-AA) level, compiling a 95-61 record (.609 winning percentage) since moving to the FCS ranks in 2004. Overall, the Jackrabbits have had a winning record in 16 of Stiegelmeier’s 20 years as head coach, and have a 49-23 record in Missouri Valley Football Conference games.
After consecutive 5-6 seasons in 2010 and 2011, the Jackrabbits rebounded in 2012 with their second postseason appearance in four years. SDSU finished the 2012 campaign with a 9-4 overall record, tying the single-season school record for wins. The Jackrabbits also hosted — and won — their first-ever playoff game, defeating Eastern Illinois, 58-10, at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium. SDSU was later eliminated by eventual national champion North Dakota State. In 2012, the Jackrabbits were ranked seven of the final eight weeks of the season and ended the campaign ranked 14th in the Sports Network media poll.
The Jackrabbits repeated much of the same success during the 2013 season, reaching the postseason in back-to-back seasons for the first time in program history. Despite being ranked in the preseason top 10, the Jackrabbits found themselves with a 4-4 record entering the final month of the season. SDSU responded, however, reeling off four consecutive wins in MVFC play to again earn an at-large berth in the FCS playoffs.
SDSU opened the 2013 playoffs with a dominant defensive performance, posting a 26-7 road win at No. 8 Northern Arizona, before falling 41-17 at third-ranked Eastern Washington a week later. The Jackrabbits again tied the school record for wins, finishing with a 9-5 overall mark, and ended up 13th in the Sports Network media poll and 14th in the FCS Coaches Poll.
A surge in the final month of the 2014 season vaulted the Jackrabbits into the FCS playoffs for the third season in a row. SDSU won its final three regular season games to earn an at-large berth and extended its winning streak to four with a 47-40 victory in the cold and snow at Montana State in the opening round of the FCS playoffs.
In second-round action, SDSU appeared on the verge of knocking off three-time defending national champion North Dakota State, taking a lead late in the fourth quarter. However, the Bison scored a touchdown in the final minute to escape with a 27-24 win. The Jackrabbits would end the season ranked 12th in the Sports Network media poll and 13th by the FCS coaches.
SDSU’s march to its fourth consecutive postseason berth began with the program’s first-ever win over a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent at the Division I level in the 2015 season opener at Kansas. The 41-38 victory helped propel the Jackrabbits to an undefeated non-conference slate and the program’s highest ranking in an FCS poll at fifth in the STATS media poll.
A three-game winning streak to start the second half of the league season, which included a 25-20 victory over second-ranked Illinois State, secured another postseason berth. However, injuries took their toll late in the season as SDSU dropped the regular season finale in double overtime at Western Illinois and a late comeback in the FCS playoff matchup at Montana came up short, ending the Jackrabbits’ 2015 campaign with an 8-4 overall record and respective national rankings of 15th and 16th in the STATS media and FCS coaches’ polls.
The 2016 season brought a move to Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium and with it the Jackrabbits' first MVFC title. SDSU opened the league slate with four consecutive wins, including a last-second 19-17 road win at top-ranked North Dakota State. After falling at Illinois State in late October, the Jackrabbits won their final three conference games to earn the MVFC's automatic bid to the FCS playoffs, which included a first-round bye.
Eighth-seeded SDSU opened the postseason with a 10-7 victory over Villanova to reach the quarterfinals for the first time in program history. The Jackrabbits' season came to a close in the quarterfinals with a loss in a rematch at North Dakota State. SDSU ended the 2016 campaign with their highest-ever finishes in the two major FCS polls, ranking sixth in the STATS media poll and seventh in the FCS Coaches' Poll.
The Jackrabbits made their first FCS playoff appearance and the program’s first postseason appearance in 30 years during the 2009 season. The Jackrabbits finished as runner-up in the Missouri Valley Football Conference with a 7-1 record and finished the season 8-4 overall. SDSU led for much of its playoff game at top-seeded Montana, before falling 61-48 to the eventual national runner-up Grizzlies. Ranked for the entire season, including appearing in the top 10 for two weeks, the Jackrabbits finished the 2009 campaign with an 11th-place showing in both the FCS Coaches’ and Sports Network media polls.
In 2008, the Jackrabbits entered another new era in their Division I pursuits as they joined the Missouri Valley Football Conference. With the transition from Division II completed, SDSU fell just short of a playoff berth in its first season of eligibility, ending the year with a 7-5 overall record and 6-2 mark in the MVFC. Of SDSU’s five losses, four came against ranked FCS opponents, including conference co-champions Northern Iowa and Southern Illinois. The team’s other loss was at the hands of Football Bowl Subdivision opponent Iowa State in the season opener. That game marked the first time the Jackrabbits had played an FBS opponent since moving to Division I at the start of the 2004 season.
Under Stiegelmeier’s guidance, SDSU has appeared in the FCS rankings nine of the last 10 seasons. The Jacks cracked the national poll for the first time in late October 2006, after posting back-to-back come-from-behind victories over Cal Poly and UC Davis. The Jackrabbits finished the 2006 season ranked 22nd by the Sports Network.
During the 2007 season, SDSU claimed its first conference title since 1963 by winning the Great West Football Conference championship. After an 0-3 start, SDSU reeled off seven wins in its final eight games, including a 29-24 victory over previously undefeated North Dakota State the final week of the season, to claim the GWFC title with a 7-4 overall record and 4-0 mark in league play.
In leading SDSU to the GWFC title, Stiegelmeier was named conference coach of the year and was honored by the American Football Coaches Association as the FCS Region 5 Coach of the Year. In addition, he was named as one of five finalists in the FCS for the 2007 Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Award.
The same day that the Jackrabbits won the 2007 Great West Football Conference, gifts totaling $6 million were announced for the construction of the Dykhouse Student-Athlete Center, which serves as the home of South Dakota State football. The facility, located in the north end zone of Coughlin-Alumni Stadium, was completed after the 2009 season.
The Jackrabbits continued to move up the rankings at the FCS level during the 2008 season, reaching the 12th spot in the Sports Network poll after opening league play with home victories over No. 14 Youngstown State and No. 15 Western Illinois in back-to-back weeks. In all, SDSU was ranked seven weeks that season.
After posting back-to-back 6-5 seasons in 2004 and 2005 to begin their Division I pursuits, the Jackrabbits rose another notch in 2006 as they compiled a 7-4 overall record, finishing the season ranked 21st in the final FCS poll conducted by The Sports Network. Following an 0-3 start, the Jacks rebounded by winning seven games in a row for the first time since 1963. Three of the victories came in the closing minutes against nationally ranked teams.
In addition to achieving success on the field, Stiegelmeier’s teams have excelled in the classroom. SDSU has earned the Missouri Valley Football Conference Team Academic Award each year since joining the league in 2008. The Jackrabbits have consistently led their conference in the number of individual all-academic awards, with football student-athletes accounting for Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-America honors 23 times during Stiegelmeier’s tenure, including first-team honorees Nick Mears and Jake Wieneke in 2016.
Stiegelmeier, 60, is the 20th head coach for the Jackrabbits. His tenure of 20 years as head coach is the second-longest head coaching stint in school history.
The Selby, S.D., native first became acquainted with the Jackrabbit football program as a student assistant under John Gregory during SDSU’s only NCAA Division II playoff season in 1979. After graduating from SDSU with degrees in mathematics and physical education, Stiegelmeier enrolled in graduate school at the University of Northern Iowa, where he served on the coaching staff of a Panther squad which posted a 7-4 mark in 1981.
Stiegelmeier coached at Eau Claire (Wis.) North High School from 1981-84, then returned to his home state as defensive coordinator, secondary coach and recruiting coordinator at Northern State from 1984-87.
Stiegelmeier returned to his alma mater in July 1988, joining Wayne Haensel’s SDSU coaching staff as secondary coach and recruiting coordinator. After Haensel stepped down following the 1990 season, Stiegelmeier was elevated to defensive coordinator by new head coach Mike Daly.
In six seasons as defensive coordinator, Stiegelmeier helped guide the Jackrabbits to a 41-23 record. SDSU turned in a winning record all six seasons, including five seven-win seasons. That track record of success helped Stiegelmeier secure his first collegiate head coaching position in December 1996, when he was named Daly’s successor.
The Stiegelmeier era opened in style Sept. 13, 1997, as the Jackrabbits recorded a 17-7 victory at UC Davis. Although SDSU finished Stiegelmeier’s first season with a 4-6 record, the foundation was laid for future success. The Jackrabbits posted a 6-5 record during the 1998 season and broke through with an 8-3 overall mark and a 6-3, fourth-place showing in the North Central Conference.
Led by Harlon Hill Award candidate Josh Ranek, SDSU posted its most victories in 20 years in 1999 and was ranked 15th in the final NCAA Division II regular season poll, despite being picked sixth in the NCC race by both the coaches and media. Following the season, Stiegelmeier was named North Central Conference Coach of the Year.
SDSU went on to post upper-division finishes in the NCC three of its last four years before moving into the ranks of Division I-AA (now Football Championship Subdivision) in 2004.
Aside from coaching, Stiegelmeier is active in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, serving on the state board of directors and as the organization’s SDSU faculty representative.