Justin Sell joined the Jackrabbit staff May 7, 2009, as the 12th director of athletics at South Dakota State University.
Sell oversees the Jackrabbits’ 21-sport Division I athletics program. Eighteen SDSU teams compete in The Summit League, while football competes in the Missouri Valley Football Conference of the Football Championship Subdivision and wrestling competes as a member of the Western Wrestling Conference. Equestrian competes under the umbrella of the National Collegiate Equestrian Association.
Under Sell’s leadership, SDSU athletics continues to make strides in athletic competition, in the classroom, in fundraising and in reconnecting with alumni.
Athletically, the Jackrabbits claimed 18 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 GPA of 3.2 or higher in more than 70 different majors, which led SDSU to winning The Summit League’s Institutional Academic Achievement Award for the 2009-10 and 2012-13 academic years and the Missouri Valley Football Conference Academic Award in all six years in the league (2008-13).
In January 2011, Sell announced a partnership with Learfield Sports, signing a 10-year deal worth $13 million for SDSU athletics. Learfield Sports quickly established a Brookings-based entity known as “Jackrabbit Sports Properties” that directs all aspects of the partnership, including managing and selling multimedia and sponsorship rights for South Dakota State Athletics.
In addition to the deal with Learfield Sports, Sell directed the implementation of the Letterwinners Club, which provides opportunities for Jackrabbit Athletics to reconnect and stay connected with former student-athletes, while supporting current student-athletes at South Dakota State.
In the years to come, Sell wants to continue reconnecting with former Jackrabbit student-athletes and enhancing the athletic facilities while still maintaining success, both in competition, but more importantly, in the classroom.
On the facilities front, Sell oversaw the completion of the Dykhouse Student-Athlete Center in 2010, and developed the 2025 SDSU Athletic Facilities Master Plan. Additionally, Sell spearheaded efforts to add permanent seating and a press box at Erv Huether Field, chairback seating in both Frost Arena and Coughlin-Alumni Stadium. Construction of the indoor facility—the Sanford-Jackrabbit Athletic Complex—began in August 2013, with completion slated for this fall. Lead gifts totaling $12.5 million toward the construction of a new football stadium with seating up to 20,000 were received in October 2013. The project will begin this fall, with completion set for summer 2016.
Born in Salem, Ore., and raised in Columbus, Ohio, 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, The Ohio State University and Bowling Green State University. Sell gained further experience working in the private sector for various sports teams and events.
In the Brookings community, where Sell lives with his wife, Jennie, and their four children: Abbie, Zach, Josh and Eric, he serves as vice president of the Brookings Chamber of Commerce, vice president for the Brookings Friends of Baseball and on the Brookings Health System Board of Trustees.
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.