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Evansville Purple Aces

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Evansville Purple Aces
UniversityUniversity of Evansville
ConferenceMissouri Valley Conference
NCAADivision I
Athletic directorMark Spencer
LocationEvansville, Indiana
Varsity teams18
Basketball arenaFord Center
Baseball stadiumCharles H. Braun Stadium
Soccer stadiumArad McCutchan Stadium
MascotAce Purple
ColorsPurple, White, and Orange[1]

The Evansville Purple Aces are the intercollegiate sports teams and players of the University of Evansville, located in Evansville, Indiana, United States. The Aces athletic program is a member of the Missouri Valley Conference[2] and competes at the NCAA's Division I level.[3] Evansville's mascot is Ace Purple, and the school colors are purple, white and orange.

Prior to joining Division I in 1977, the Aces were in the Division II men's basketball championship tournaments 15 of 20 years and won the title in 1959, '60, '64, '65, and '71.[4]

Sports sponsored

Men's sports Women's sports
Baseball Basketball
Basketball Cross country
Cross country Golf
Golf Soccer
Soccer Softball
Swimming and diving Swimming and diving
Track and field Track and field
† – Track and field includes both indoor and outdoor

Moores Hill College moved to Evansville and became Evansville College in 1919. The athletics program was begun with the opening of the new campus.

A member of the Missouri Valley Conference, the University of Evansville sponsors teams in seven men's and nine women's NCAA sanctioned sports.


Evansville first baseman John Day holds an Arkansas runner on first base in Baum Stadium
Evansville first baseman John Day holds an Arkansas runner on first base in Baum Stadium

Five players from the Purple Aces baseball team have appeared in Major League Baseball: Andy Benes, Sal Fasano, Jamey Carroll, Kyle Freeland, and Rob Maurer.

Men's Basketball

The memorial display case at the Ford Center honoring UE's championship tradition
The memorial display case at the Ford Center honoring UE's championship tradition

The University of Evansville athletics department was built upon a foundation of success in men's basketball. In the early years of the men's basketball program the Purple Aces appeared in the NAIA national tournament. The Purple Aces appeared 4 times in the NAIA Tournament (1941, 1942, 1951, and 1955). The Purple Aces had a NAIA tournament record of 3-4. The furthest distance Evansville got in the NAIA tournaments was in third round (NAIA Quarterfinals) in 1951, only to lose to Regis University (Colo.) 70-68.[5]

Shortly after the 1955 season the Purple Aces would move up to the NCAA College Division, now called NCAA Division II. The Evansville Purple Aces won five national championships in the NCAA College Division: 1959, 1960, 1964, 1965 (29-0 record) and 1971. This ranks second all-time.

In 1977 UE began playing in NCAA Division I athletics. That same year on December 13, a chartered DC-3 carrying the entire UE basketball team crashed in a field near the Evansville Regional Airport en route to a game against Middle Tennessee State. Every member of the team and coaching staff on the plane was killed. Legendary Aces coach Arad McCutchan, had retired after the previous season and was not on the plane. McCutchan was the first NCAA College Division coach selected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.[6] One player was not able to attend the game and thus was not on the plane; not long after the plane crash, however, the player who was not on the plane was killed in a car accident along with his younger brother.

Tremendous community support brought back the basketball program the next year. Brad Leaf played for the Evansville Purple Aces from 1979 to 1982, and was a co-captain in his last year.[7][8][9] As a sophomore, he set the then-Evansville season free throw percentage record at 81.1%.[10] In 1981-82, he led the school to its first NCAA Division I tournament.[11][12][9] He was the school's first All-American in NCAA Division I.[13][11] Leaf was 5th in school history in field goals (621), 6th in field goal percentage (52.2%), 7th in points (1,605), and 9th in free throws (363).[13]

Evansville was a charter member of the Midwest Collegiate Conference, now known as the Horizon League. The Aces won or shared the MCC regular season title in 1982, 1987, 1989, 1992, and 1993. They also won the conference tournament title in 1982, 1992, and 1993. The Aces are now a member of the Missouri Valley Conference, and won the 1999 regular season title.

The Purple Aces have made five trips to the NCAA Men's basketball tournament (1982, 1989, 1992, 1993, 1999),[14] two trips to the NIT (1988, 1994),[15] three trips to the CollegeInsider.com (CIT) tournament (2009, 2013, and Champions in 2015),[16] and two trips to the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) tournament (2011 and 2012).[17]

On November 12, 2019, the Evansville team took down the #1 ranked University of Kentucky basketball team in Rupp Arena, gaining national and global prestige for the upset.

Women's basketball

The University of Evansville women's basketball team (the Lady Aces) have made two trips to the NCAA basketball tournament (1999, 2009).[18]


The Purple Aces were a fully funded NCAA Division I-AA (now FCS) program in the non-scholarship Pioneer Football League until 1997. They were champion of the Ohio Valley Conference in 1948 (with a 3–1 record in conference play, shared with Morehead State) and 1949 (with a 3–1–1 conference record). Talk existed since about 2007 about upgrading football again to a fully funded NCAA Division I team, but, after a year of investigation, the Board of Trustees voted against this in October 2012 as currently being too expensive.[19]

Season Bowl Opponent Result
1948 Refrigerator Bowl Missouri Valley W 13–7
1949 Refrigerator Bowl Hillsdale W 22–7
1974 College Division Cup Central College (Iowa) L 16–17

See also


  1. ^ University of Evansville Brand Guidelines (PDF). April 12, 2019. Retrieved April 29, 2020.
  2. ^ "This is the Missouri Valley Conference". Missouri Valley Conference. Archived from the original on September 15, 2015. Retrieved October 21, 2015.
  3. ^ "University of Evansville". NCAA. Retrieved October 21, 2015.
  4. ^ "Men's Basketball Championship History". NCAA. Retrieved October 21, 2015.
  5. ^ NAIA Championship History Archived March 25, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "NCAA.com – The Official Website of NCAA Championships". NCAA.com. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
  7. ^ "Leaf Happy to be "Home" in Indiana". Indiana Pacers. June 23, 2017. Retrieved October 25, 2020.
  8. ^ Jordan Littman (September 6, 2013). "Q & A: Brad Leaf discusses his son's visit to Indiana".
  9. ^ a b Alexander Wolff (November 30, 1981). "THE BEST OF THE REST". Sports Illustrated Vault. Retrieved October 25, 2020.
  10. ^ Knight, David (January 30, 1982). "Gambling Aces to face Butler; await DePaul". The Indianapolis Star. p. 23. Retrieved October 25, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  11. ^ a b "2017-2018 Men's Basketball Media Guide" (PDF). Evansville Purple Aces. Retrieved October 25, 2020.
  12. ^ "UE Aces Men's Basketball". www.uealumnionline.com. Retrieved October 25, 2020.
  13. ^ a b "Brad Leaf". Purple Aces Hall of Fame. Retrieved October 25, 2020.
  14. ^ NCAA Basketball History
  15. ^ "NIT Tournament Home". NCAA.com. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
  16. ^ "Postseason Tournament". CollegeInsider.com. Retrieved May 3, 2015.
  17. ^ "College Basketball Invitational". Gazelle Group, Inc. Archived from the original on May 11, 2015. Retrieved May 3, 2015.
  18. ^ NCAA Women's Basketball History
  19. ^ "University of Evansville officially says no to football". Evansville Courier & Press. October 23, 2012. Retrieved May 3, 2015.
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