Archive for April, 2010

Butler: Now We’re On the Map!

April 5, 2010

“In the Gallery of Mem’ries, there are pictures bright and fair.  And I find that Dear old Butler is the brightest one that’s there….”  (Butler alma mater)

It’s amazing what winning almost 90 basketball games in a row will do for a school.  Humble, quiet little Butler University — the Indianapolis liberal arts university best known until this spring for its pharmacy school and dance program — is in full bloom.  Like the “little engine that could,” Butler has defied all of the oddsmakers and risen to the top of the pile.

Everyone is talking about Butler.  29-thousand people showed up for the PRACTICE session of the Final Four basketball tournament, just to see the Bulldogs warm up.  Hinkle Fieldhouse was filled with thousands more who didn’t have (or couldn’t get) tickets to the games in Lucas Oil Stadium, which was designed to match Hinkle’s “Hoosier Basketball Palace” aesthetic — a shrine of steel and brick, or at least concrete pressed to look like brick!

T-shirt sales have propelled the usually-quiet campus bookstore to chart year-over-year sales that are 60 times normal.

Everyone, it seems, is pulling for Butler.  It could be that the dreams of yesterday are finally coming true.

Butler’s big-time alumni supporters of the 1920’s had huge ambitions for the school, so big that they they built the largest basketball arena in the U.S.A. back in 1928 — a title that the beloved Fieldhouse held for over 20 years.  In fact, so much money was poured into athletics during the late 1920’s that Butler had its academic accreditation stripped because of inattention to what the school was supposed to be doing (educating) and a lopsided emphasis on sports with the new $1 million Fieldhouse for basketball and Butler Bowl for football.  The fledgling university, which had just relocated to a former city park, was nearly drawn under in the crisis.

The result profoundly changed Butler’s focus.  Over the years, its academic credentials were restored and new investments brought consolidated schools of fine arts, business, the sciences, and religion.  Basketball and football were still popular, but the dreams of being part of the Big Ten were never realized.

The massive Fieldhouse became Tony Hinkle’s domain, as revered coach of basketball, football, and baseball.  It was Coach Hinkle who carefully and quietly built the Butler foundation.

Probably the most famous thing about Butler is not its current stellar academic reputation, its thousands of graduates (17-thousand of whom still live nearby), or its stateley “Collegiate Gothic” architecture.

Butler is famous this week for its basketball team — and hardworking, youthful coach — who emphasize academics over basketball, and team play over individual showmanship.

This school of not quite 4,000 students is perhaps best known for its role as a backdrop for the movie “Hoosiers” — considered by many to be the best sports movie ever made.

This week, the fans come like pilgrims to a shrine to see Hinkle’s House — with the gentle arcing roofline constructed by bridgebuilders to span a maple floor and contain Indiana’s passion for basketball.

My first campus tour as a high school student was 30 years ago, and Butler’s stellar Radio/TV program (now morphed as “Telecommunications Arts”) remains a powerful asset.  But we were never like Indiana University with Bob Knight and his crazy chair-throwing antics.  Nor did we have the legacy of Purdue, with its stadium filled with thousands upon thousands of students and alumni.

We’re just Butler.  The northside Indianapolis campus familiar to most here for its quiet, tree-lined streets, concert halls, and that mighty arena.

But this week, we get a taste of what it means to go all the way.

A dream we couldn’t even imagine until now.

GO BULLDOGS!

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Butler War Song

April 2, 2010

by John Heiney, Butler Class of ’23

We’ll sing the Butler war song,

we’ll give the fighting cry.

We’ll fight the Butler battle,

Bulldogs ever do or die;

And in the glow of the vict’ry firelight,

hist’ry cannot deny,

To add a page or two for Butler’s fighting crew

beneath the Hoosier sky.