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Remembering Coach Marking, ‘The Barn’

Jim Marking
South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame

The recent passing of former South Dakota State University Mens Basketball Coach Jim Marking set me to remembering  the games in “The Barn.”

“The Barn” was built around the time of World War I, and I’m sure it was just fine for basketball in those days, when South Dakota State College (as it was known then) had far fewer students. And, of course, the only basketball played competitively was by male students.

By the time I arrived in 1969, the building was far too small, but oh, the atmosphere!I

I wasn’t able to find a picture to do it justice, but  I’m guessing 2,500 to 3,000 students and other fans could be wedged in, especially for the games against USD. Those were the games when students who wouldn’t give a second thought to going to a game all had to be there, many of them fortified with liquid refreshments so they were good and obnoxious, even to other Jacks fans who were a lot more serious about basketball (I still count myself in that group).

The crowds in any case were loud, raucous and enthusiastic, to the point where I can remember Coach Marking using a microphone and amplifier, with the players wearing headphones so they could hear him during timeouts.

And did the Runnin’ Rabbits ever run the fast break! And they usually got it done with South Dakota boys. I can remember the year before I arrived when Coach Marking had entire roster of South Dakotans, with the exception of Raul Duarte, who stood something like 6’8″. He was from Peru and was studying dairy.

It’s accurate to say Jim Marking helped to lay the groundwork for the teams of today.

He was coaching when Frost Arena was opened during the second semester of the 1972-73 academic year. My friends and I walked around, slack-jawed as we toured it. To this day I think the opening was delayed so the Jacks could play one more game against USD in the old venue.

“The Barn” is still there, as far as I know. It’s now known as the Old Intramural Building, and I bet it’s a lot quieter.

But I’d also bet that if I walked through it, I could still hear the crowd and see Coach Marking and the Runnin’ Rabbits.

And I’d smile.

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