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Friday, February 1, 2013

Sorry Lance Wilkerson, Coach McCutchan Would Have Supported Roberts

The date was February 26th, 2011-the last men's basketball game the University of Evansville hosted at Roberts Stadium. Like I talked about in the Aces post before this one, UE's decision to vacate Roberts Stadium and rent the Ford Center instead of purchasing Roberts Stadium outright has been a bad decision of epic proportions. Attendance at Aces games has hit an all-time low (and it's not even close to the worst season at Roberts) while the UE campus now struggles with room for their campus and athletic programs such as their volleyball team (most universities move their volleyball, women's basketball, and other miscellaneous sports teams into their old arena-See Nebraska).

But on February 26th, 2011, no one knew what the future would hold as that day was a day to celebrate the history and accomplishments of Roberts Stadium. After UE defeated Illinois State, UE gathered over a hundred alumni around the court to listen to Lance Wilkerson, who serves as UE's play by play broadcaster and director of development for athletics, give the crowd one last speech.

I'll admit, I fell for it all. Standing next to Lloyd Winnecke as he walked up to Jim Crews to try to strike up a conversation about the good ole days, seeing all the Aces boosters and officials come back to see Roberts Stadium, and listening to Wilkerson talk about what Roberts Stadium meant to the Aces sold me on the idea that UE actually gave a damn about this arena and would actually fight to keep it standing even if it never hosted another UE basketball game again.

Of course, we now know that when push came to shove, UE took the city's bait and bought into the notion that somehow, someway a mid-sized Roberts Stadium with or without the Aces would compete with the Ford Center. They believed the fear that a standing Roberts Stadium would ruin their glorious entrance into the Ford Center no matter what purpose the building served moving forward. As a result of this paranoia, just about all of those who represented UE on the court that day did the following when push came to shove to fight to repurpose Roberts Stadium...

Although I remember most of Wilkerson's speech, I was fortunate to have had it recorded as well. A few nights ago, I decided to play the video once more for the simple fact that I missed seeing a fully intact Roberts Stadium. The following part of the video stuck out to me...

For those who couldn't hear the speech clearly, Wilkerson was talking about a conversation he had had with the son of Ace's legendary coach Arad McCutchan. He said that when he was talking with him he asked him what he thought his dad would say about the Aces moving into the new arena if he were still alive. He said Coach McCutchan's son replied,

"Arad would love it, he would embrace it."

Given the fact that Wilkerson mentioned in his speech that he wanted the UE alumni to know about this comment, can we assume this is an accurate assumption of how Coach McCutchan would feel? Did Coach McCutchan ever mention that he wished UE would demolish Roberts Stadium and build a new arena?

Those who have followed this blog frequently will recall that back in the 1980s the city debated building a new arena downtown instead of renovating Roberts Stadium. Then mayor Michael Vandeveer proposed a 15,000 seat dome on the lot that is currently taken by Casino Aztar. Unfortunately, the correct solution which was to have either left Roberts as is or given it a slight renovation (Yes I did like the original Roberts but I must admit the 4 gates that were added in 1990 looked amazing) for the Aces while constructing a bigger dome for concerts, sports tournaments, and other teams like USI who would later catch fire with Bruce Pearl as coach.

Since the city government made the problem an either/or solution, various city leaders and Aces officials were asked which option they would prefer. Lucky for us, one of those people was Coach McCutchan who still went to the Aces games even after he retired in 1977...

The following news article is the same exact one I posted two stories below this one...

On its face, this newspaper article looks just like a regular run of the mill article you see in the Courier & Press every day. In fact, you have to click on the link above it to zoom in close enough to see that this article isn't just any ole article- it is Coach McCutchan's definitive opinion on if he liked Roberts Stadium or if he would have wanted to play in a new arena.

After zooming in, when you read the third and second to last paragraphs you will see the following from Coach McCutchan...

"McCutchan, as you might expect, would prefer that his long-time home be expanded rather than razed.

"I presume my thinking is colored by the fact that the stadium has been so good for me in its present location," he said. "But I've been to a lot (arenas), and I will tell you- when it comes to watching a game I really want to see, this is the place I want to see it. I just don't think there's a bad seat in it, even the worst seat in the house.""

As you read those two paragraphs, did the words of Coach McCutchan himself convince you that he would "love" and/or "embrace" a new arena?  Do you think Coach McCutchan would have approved of the way Winnecke and UE treated Roberts Stadium last year? It shouldn't take a moment's thought to figure that one out!

As with former Evansville mayor Hank Roberts, who built Roberts Stadium, and Evansville architect Ralph Legeman, who designed Roberts Stadium and holds the coveted patent for the Indiana fieldhouse design, Coach McCutchan wasn't alive to help us fight for Roberts Stadium these past 2 years. He died on June 16th, 1993...

While Roberts Stadium is being demolished, we are seeing first hand just how far our city has fallen. Instead of Hank Roberts, we have a mayor who still can't even prove his own Roberts Stadium Task Force Report. Instead of Ralph Legeman, we basically have no architects who have designed anything more than a strip mall. And instead of Arad McCutchan, we have a basketball coach who has lost more games than he has weight with his new weight loss program.

The saddest part about how far our city has fallen is the fact that our city leaders have forgotten who made this city everything it used to be. On Dec 13th, 2012, the 35th anniversary of the Aces plane crash, the mayor, the parks department, and Klenck Demolition via the Courier & Press announced that they were going to set up a web cam for those interested in watching the demolition of Roberts Stadium online.

UE has forgotten which facility gave them 5 NCAA College Division championships. And now, it appears that they have forgotten how Coach McCutchan felt about Roberts Stadium. Like Roberts, McCutchan made UE everything it has ever been in basketball...

On February 20th, which is a little under 3 weeks away, it will be the 48th anniversary of Arad McCutchan Day...

Will Evansville still remember Coach McCutchan on February 20th, 2013? Or, will his legacy only be brought back up when UE or the city needs to use it as a marketing tool for one of their capital improvement projects?

If you want to turn your back on Roberts Stadium in favor of a new arena that is designed for premier acts, basketball tournaments, and regular season hockey games that take up a bigger floor surface, help yourself. But if you do make the decision that sacrificing Roberts Stadium to the city in exchange for getting to call the city's new toy your home is worth it, please make sure you take credit for this decision.

Don't act like past generations would stand for this regressive and disrespectful decision!

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