January 07, 2020

Guest Colum | Kelly Stewart

Kelly Stewart '16 reflects on her time at USD, her career at Midco and how her passion and career are one and the same. 

If you watch Midco or follow USD Women’s Basketball, then you know Kelly Stewart. A former starter for the Coyotes who was a part of the WNIT Championship team, Kelly is now the familiar face you see on the sidelines covering Division I hoops throughout the Dakotas. 

Here she talks to USD about what fuels her passions, how her experience at USD translates into her career and why she believes the Dakotas have high-quality athletes that deserve to have their stories told.

USD: Can you tell us a little more about your current role at Midco?

Kelly: On-Air talent is a large umbrella that includes hosting pregame, halftime and postgame shows for various athletic events on MidcoSN; serving as a men’s and women’s basketball analyst; and sidelining for various live FCS football games. I also contribute weekly digital content (i.e. feature stories, podcasts, blogs, etc.) for our MidcoSN social channels. For ESPN, I serve as a freelance women’s basketball analyst, primarily calling games in the American Athletic Conference (AAC).


USD: As a Media and Journalism Student from USD, can you talk a little bit about how that program prepared you to jump right in to being one of the main sports reporters in the region?

Kelly: I can’t say enough positive things about the Media & Journalism program at USD, and it’s so neat to watch it continue to grow and improve year after year. It’s one of those things in life where you don’t fully appreciate it until you get out into the world and realize that there aren’t many programs like that. 

First of all, the program checks all the boxes when it comes to preparing students to attack the intense world of media. From access to top of the line equipment, to a beautiful Coyote News studio, to endless opportunities to get hands on experience in a variety of media settings, students can literally dabble in everything and figure out which path they want to take with their media career. Another huge advantage of the program is that students can get involved right away, which isn’t the case at a variety of other schools. I started working on live Coyote News broadcasts during the fall semester of my freshman year, and I feel getting that experience early on helped me—and my classmates—get “ahead of the game” as future reporters. 

Finally, it’s one thing to have great equipment and facilities as well as access to opportunities, but what sets USD’s Media & Journalism Department apart from other schools are the professors. Of course, their knowledge and ability to teach a variety of skills is unmatched, but the staff at Al Neuharth are genuine, incredible people that truly care about their students and want to help them succeed in any way possible.

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USD: What was it like transitioning from a Division I athlete, with a tremendous career, into a sports reporter who now has to maintain objectivity?

Kelly: I get asked this question a lot, especially considering that we have some great rivalries in the Dakotas. However, I feel that being an athlete at the Division I level and everything that goes into getting to that point has really allowed me to simply appreciate great teams and great athletes, no matter what school they play for. Don’t get me wrong, I love USD and the entire Coyote community with all my heart. My five years in Vermillion were everything I could have wanted for a student-athlete experience and more, and I will forever be a die-hard Coyote fan. What I mean by “appreciating great teams and great athletes” is that, quite frankly, I’m a sports junkie—so I love watching quality performances on the court, field, track, etc. We are so fortunate here in the Dakotas to have high-quality teams and athletes in so many different sports, and I love that my job is literally to report on these great athletes and tell their stories.

I’m a sports junkie—so I love watching quality performances on the court, field, track, etc. We are so fortunate here in the Dakotas to have high-quality teams and athletes in so many different sports, and I love that my job is literally to report on these great athletes and tell their stories.

USD: With Summit League around the corner, does it start to feel really nostalgic for you? Do you get the same emotions from the sidelines watching these athletes that you once did as a player?

Kelly: I feel that the nostalgia will always be there (haha). There’s just nothing that compares to the feelings and emotions of being a college athlete, especially when it comes to league play and tourney time. While there’s nostalgia, I also find myself constantly feeling blessed that I got to have those experiences and share them with such amazing teammates, coaches, and fans that I can also call family. 

I think that any former college athlete will always miss the “glory days.” I’d be lying if I said my heart doesn’t race during every broadcast (especially women’s hoops). At the same time, I was so fortunate to be part of a team that worked extremely hard and accomplished huge feats that few athletes get to experience. While I don’t think “satisfied” is the right word to describe my basketball career (hey, athletes are never satisfied, right?), I can honestly say I got everything I could have wanted and more out of my time in a Coyote jersey, and I will forever be grateful for that.


USD: What are you most proud of in how you contribute to our state? 

Kelly: I experienced firsthand the greatness of college athletics at USD and the state of South Dakota as a whole. I’ve seen athletics all over the nation, and I know when teams are good and when they’re not, no matter the size of their city or school enrollment. I have a good feel for when a school’s (or team’s) story deserves to be told, and I want to give athletes, coaches and communities the exposure they deserve in athletics. I want to tell their stories because there are GREAT stories to be told here in South Dakota, and for a long time, those stories weren’t able to reach a large audience. I wanted to be a part of changing the exposure of athletics in this state as a player, and I feel I did that. Now, I want to be a part of changing that as a reporter, and I feel that we definitely have gotten the ball rolling.

I wanted to be a part of changing the exposure of athletics in this state as a player, and I feel I did that. Now, I want to be a part of changing that as a reporter, and I feel that we definitely have gotten the ball rolling.

USD: To end, we want to ask one question that we ask everyone: What is your why? 

Kelly: I’ve always been passionate about telling the story behind the score. One of the most beautiful parts of sports is that it unites people of all different ages, backgrounds, races, religions, political affiliations, etc., and athletes get an opportunity to learn about lifestyles they’ve never experienced through connecting with teammates. It really opens your eyes to a lot of things and makes you realize that behind every athlete is a unique story—some stories are more “extreme” than others, but regardless, everyone has a story that has shaped them into the athlete you see on the court, field, ice, etc., and person you see away from sports. Those stories need to be told because they can help connect us all, and they help to show the world that athletes and teams have much more depth than how many wins and losses they put up in a season.

One of the most beautiful parts of sports is that it unites people of all different ages, backgrounds, races, religions, political affiliations, etc., and athletes get an opportunity to learn about lifestyles they’ve never experienced through connecting with teammates.