SDSU's Sell Named Athletic Director of the Year

SDSU's Sell Named Athletic Director of the Year

CLEVELAND, Ohio ( – South Dakota State University Director of Athletics Justin Sell was named Tuesday as a recipient of the Under Armour AD of the Year Award by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA).

Sell is one of four recipients in the Football Championship Subdivision, and one of 28 nationally across all divisions of college athletics. Winners will receive their awards on June 17 at NACDA’s 50th Annual Convention in Orlando, Florida. 

Award winners were selected based on the following criteria: service as an AD for a minimum of five academic years; demonstration of commitment to higher education and student-athletes; continuous teamwork, loyalty and excellence; and the ability to inspire individuals or groups to high levels of accomplishments. Additionally, each AD's institution must have passed a compliance check through its appropriate governing body (i.e., NCAA, NAIA, etc.), in which the institution could not have been on probation or cited for a lack of institutional control within the last five years during the tenure of the current athletics director.

At South Dakota State, Sell has overseen the Jackrabbits’ 21-sport Division I varsity athletics program since May 2009. Under his leadership, Jackrabbit Athletics has continually made strides in athletic competition, in the classroom, in fundraising and in reconnecting with alumni. 

Athletically, the Jackrabbits have claimed 21 regular and postseason league championships in six different sports since 2009-10. That broad-based success has led SDSU to claim The Summit League Commissioner’s Cup all-sports trophy three times (2010-11, 2012-13, 2013-14), along with winning both the Summit League’s Dr. William Steinbrecher Men’s All-Sports Award and Dr. Helen Smiley Women’s All-Sports Award during the 2013-14 season. SDSU also claimed the Steinbrecher award during the 2012-13 season and was the recipient of the league’s Sportsmanship Award, an award voted upon by its peers, during the 2010-11 campaign.

In the classroom, Jackrabbit student-athletes continually post a grade-point average of 3.2 or higher while enrolled in more than 70 different majors. SDSU claimed The Summit League’s Institutional Academic Achievement Award for the 2009-10 and 2012-13 academic years, as well as the Missouri Valley Football Conference Academic Award in six consecutive seasons (2008-13). 

To further support current student-athletes at South Dakota State, Sell directed the implementation of the Letterwinners Club, which provides opportunities for Jackrabbit Athletics to reconnect and stay connected with former student-athletes.

Sell also has implemented other aggressive marketing and fundraising initiatives which have resulted in record average attendance for football, as well as the highest number of donors and dollars donated to the Jackrabbit Club. Ticket sales totaled more than $1 million for the first time during the 2011-12 academic year, and was surpassed again during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons. In addition, the Jackrabbit Athletic Scholarship Auction has raised more than $500,000 each of the past two years, and ticket sales have risen steadily. In January of 2011, Sell announced a partnership with Learfield Sports, signing a 10-year deal worth $13 million for SDSU Athletics that directs all aspects of the partnership, including managing and selling multimedia and sponsorship rights for South Dakota State Athletics. 

On the facilities front, Sell has overseen dramatic upgrades and expansion of competition and practice venues through development and implementation of the 2025 SDSU Athletic Facilities Master Plan. The Dykhouse Student-Athlete Center was completed in 2010, and Sell spearheaded efforts to add permanent seating and a press box at Erv Huether Field, as well as other recent improvements to the home of Jackrabbit baseball.

More recently, construction of the $32 million Sanford-Jackrabbit Athletic Complex was completed in the fall of 2014. The facility, which serves as a competition venue for indoor track and field and as a practice facility for football and a number of other outdoor sports, contains one of only a handful of 300-meter indoor tracks in the country, as well as expanded facilities for sports medicine and strength and conditioning. 

In addition, work is under way for the construction of the $65 million Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium, which will serve as the new home of Jackrabbit football. The 19,000-seat stadium is scheduled to open in its entirety in the fall of 2016.

In the fall of 2014, Sell was appointed by the NCAA Board of Directors to represent The Summit League and Missouri Valley Football Conference on the newly formed Division I Council.

Sell came to South Dakota State from the University of Northern Iowa, where he worked in various roles, both at the university and in the community for 10 years. 

He also worked at Villanova University, Syracuse University, Ohio State University and Bowling Green State University. Sell gained further experience working in the private sector for various sports teams and events.

Sell earned his bachelor’s degree in sport management from Bowling Green State University (Ohio) in 1991 and completed a master’s degree in physical education/sport administration at The Ohio State University in 1992.