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Our History and Traditions

Our History:

USD Historic Photo

USD Historic Photo

USD Historic Photo

150 Logo

Historic photos courtesy of USD Archives & Special Collections and the Digital Library of South Dakota.

When the first Legislature of the Dakota Territory met in 1862, it authorized the establishment of the University at Vermillion, making it the oldest postsecondary institution in the Dakotas. The authorization was unfunded, however, and classes did not begin until 20 years later under the auspices of the privately incorporated University of Dakota, created with great support from the citizens of Clay County. Ephraim Epstein served as the first president and primary faculty member in the institution that opened in loaned space in downtown Vermillion. Before 1883 ended, the university had moved into Old Main, and the first public board was appointed to govern the fledgling institution.

Enrollment increased to 69 students by the end of the 1883, and, by the time South Dakota became the 40th state in 1889, USD boasted an enrollment of 500 students. USD's first academic unit, the College of Arts and Sciences, was established in 1883.

The School of Law began offering classes in 1901; the School of Medicine in 1907; Continuing Education in 1916; the Graduate School in 1927; and the College of Fine Arts in 1931.

Today, USD is one of six public institutions governed by the South Dakota Board of Regents, a nine-member board appointed by the Governor.

In 2012, USD celebrated its 150th anniversary.  Read more about USD's anniverary in the South Dakotan Magazine - Sesquicentennial Edition.

Past Presidents

Our Traditions
Old Main
Old Main

At the heart of campus, Old Main is USD's oldest building. Originally built in 1883 as University Hall, Old Main was destroyed by fire in 1893 and was immediately rebuilt. The building was completely renovated from 1993 to 1997 and now is home to classrooms, Honors Program, Farber Hall and the Oscar Howe Gallery.

Dakota Days
Dakota Days or D Days

South Dakota's annual homecoming celebration dates back to 1914 when university President Slagle encouraged an event to "promote campus spirit and harmony." The result was "South Dakota Day" (later shortened to "Dakota Day") as students elected royalty, built floats and cheered on the university's football team - in much the same way they do today.

Dakota Dome
The DakotaDome

The Coyotes stay warm, dry and virtually unbeatable inside one of the region's most recognizable structures - the DakotaDome. Opened in 1979, the Dome provides an electric atmosphere for students and an unparalleled home-field advantage for the Coyote Athletic teams.  In addition, the Dome provides USD athletes with fitness and strength training facilities.

Charlie Coyote
Charlie Coyote (always pronounced "Ki-YOTE")
It's only fitting that the official animal of the state of South Dakota is also the mascot of the state's flagship university. Intercollegiate athletics began at USD in 1889, and when the school's first yearbook was published in 1902, the editors had already dubbed the teams "the Coyotes." The name stuck. Today USD is represented by a costumed mascot, "Charlie Coyote."  
Doc Farber Statue
Doc Farber Statue

USD professor emeritus of political science, mentor to students and stalwart of South Dakota political history William O. "Doc" Farber passed away in 2007 at the age of 96. But the iconic professor's legacy lives on under the watchful eye and insightful expression of the Doc Farber statue located in front of Dakota Hall. Good grades are said to "rub off" on those who stop to wish Doc's statue well.

 Cheerleaders
Fight Songs

USD has not just one, but three fight songs used to rally and unite the Coyotes on the playing field or anywhere alumni gather.

Most commonly, back-to-back renditions of Hail South Dakota and South Dakota Victory are played as one, "official" song at fan and alumni functions. On game day, listen for South Dakota Victory following a touchdown, Hail South Dakota after the extra point and fan-favorite Get Along Coyotes after a big play or at any time to inspire the crowd.

  • Listen to the USD Fight Songs:
  • Lyrics
    • South Dakota Victory
      • Fight South Dakota
        You're the pride of the Western plain
        As we cheer each victory
        Ever loyal will our love remain for you South Dakota
        You're a great university
        So, Yipeeo, here we go forward today,
        South Dakota victory
    • Hail South Dakota Victory
      • Hail South Dakota, Pride of the West,
        Old alma mater, Noblest and best,
        We rally 'round thee, Marching abreast,
        Hail thee! Hail thee! Riding the crest.
        Thy sons and daughters ever will be
        Loyal and true to thee. Rah! Rah! Rah!
        Varsity, varsity, Hail varsity! U. S. D.
    • Get Along Coyotes
      • Get along, you Coyotes, get along.
        Sing a song, you Coyotes, sing a song.
        For Vermillion and White
        You gotta fight, fight, fight.
        Get along, you Coyotes, get along.
      • Raise the dust, you Coyotes, raise the dust.
        Win you must, you Coyotes, win you must.
        Chase 'em on till they drop
        Don't ever stop, stop, stop
        Raise the dust, you Coyotes, raise the dust.