Evansville forms its first basketball teamIn 1925, Evansville College formed its first basketball team. The team played its games in a small gymnasium on campus known as “the Ark.” The team’s first coach was Leo Berning, who was also a professor at the college. The team played a schedule of local opponents, including high schools and other small colleges in the area. In those early ...
Evansville football team wins the NCAA Division II championshipIn 1977, the Evansville Purple Aces football team won the NCAA Division II championship, the only national championship in the program’s history. The team was coached by Dennis Raetz, who had taken over as head coach just three years earlier. The Purple Aces finished the regular season with a record of 8-2, earning a spot in the Division II playoffs. ...
women’s basketball team reaches NCAAIn 1992 Evansville women’s basketball team reaches the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history
Jerry Solan – Evansville Athletics Hall of FameJerry Sloan played college basketball for the University of Evansville Purple Aces from 1962 to 1965. During his time at Evansville, Sloan was a standout player and was named an All-American in both his junior and senior seasons. He was also a key member of the Evansville team that reached the NCAA tournament in 1964. Sloan’s success at Evansville helped ...
History of the Purple Aces
The Evansville Purple Aces have a long and storied history in the NCAA. From its inception in 1906, they've been one of the most successful teams in college basketball. They are currently members of the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC). The team has won nine conference championships, including four regular season titles and five tournament crowns.
As part of their impressive resume, the Purple Aces boasts two Final Four appearances and many other deep runs into March Madness tournaments. In the 1999-2000 season alone, they made it to Sweet Sixteen before being eliminated by eventual champion Michigan State University Spartans led by Mateen Cleaves. During that same year, they also earned an NIT bid where they advanced to the semi-finals before bowing out against St John’s Red Storm at Madison Square Garden, New York City.
In addition to success on the court, the program is known for producing some top NBA talent, such as Hall Of Fame inductee Jerry Sloan who was drafted 4th overall 1966 draft after leading his alma mater Evansville Aces to the 1965 NIT championship title game loss versus NYU Violets at Madison Square Garden NYC. More recently, former star guard Colt Ryan (2012) was signed undrafted free agent with Utah Jazz but did not make the final roster cut due to injuries suffered during summer league play in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Overall, the proud tradition continues today with current head coach Walter McCarty taking over reigns from Marty Simmons 2017-18 season; he looks to lead the squad back to glory days while competing hard every night in the MVC competition!
College Sports Established
University of Evansville
1977 - Present / NCAA Division I
1955 - 1977 / NCAA Division II
1994 - Present / Missouri Valley Conference
1985 - 1994 / Midwestern Collegiate Conference
1979 - 1985 / Midwestern City Conference
Purple Aces - The Evansville Purple Aces have a long and storied history in NCAA athletics. The nickname "Purple Aces" had existed since the 1920s, when the University of Evansville first began fielding teams in intercollegiate sports. The origin story behind this unique moniker is an interesting one that any true sports fan should know!
It all started with basketball coach Clifford Wells, who was hired to lead the university's newly formed team during its inaugural season in 1924-25. He wanted something memorable but had to contend with limited resources; thus, he decided on "Purple Aces," which could be printed cheaply on uniforms as it only required one ink color for printing! From there, other athletic teams adopted it, and soon enough, “Ace” became synonymous with all things related to UE athletics - from players' nicknames (such as Ace Jones) to cheers ("Go Ace Go!"). It inspired their fight song: “Let’s go you purple aces high…you can do or die…go ace go!.
The Purple Aces nickname has become synonymous within college sports circles and throughout Indiana itself; fans recognize it and proudly wear its colors whenever they attend games or cheer them on from afar. So next time you see someone sporting purple gear emblazoned with an ace symbol, remember that they are part of a proud tradition dating back nearly 100 years - thanks mainly to Clifford Wells' creativity!
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