INDIANAPOLIS – The “Hoosiers” comparison is becoming a bit far-fetched for this athletic program.
Especially when a giant “Big East” banner hangs on the side of their iconic basketball arena and it represents their current conference affiliation.
The event is a momentous one for the school athletically as they enter the ten-team league that has a rich history, especially in men’s and women’s basketball. It’s the former’s success over the past few years that was the catalyst for a school that goes from a mid-major affiliation to major in just two years.
“There’s so many positive things about this move to the Big East,” said Butler President James Danko during the school’s Big East news conference on Monday-in which they officially joined the conference. “It’s another positive step in terms of Butler’s national recognition, the opportunity to frankly to join a group of elite, nationally recognized universities.
“It’s a great fit for Butler.”
The big stage isn’t something totally new to the Bulldogs, who have watched their men’s basketball program qualify for two Final Fours since 2010. Having the opportunity to make such a landmark step was paved long before that, starting with iconic coach Tony Hinkle to the current men’s basketball run under Brad Stevens.
“Those are the people who deserve this day as much as anybody,” said Stevens of the athletes who helped to build the Butler program. “It’s really a cool thing for them, I’m sure a lot of those guys are watching and are going to be paying attention.”
What they along with many will be watching is how the team handles themselves with this move to the elite level of college athletics. Exactly how “The Butler Way”-a phrase used often by the athletic department to express their athlete’s need for hardwork and team work-will carry over to the Big East is something on many people’s minds as the Bulldogs move forward.
Barry Collier doesn’t think that will be an issue-and he tried to demonstrate it answering a question during his news conference about higher expectations. For the athletic director, that doesn’t figure to be an issue.
“The expectations from the outside are pretty high, higher than they were,” said Collier, putting his hand around his head to show how others have high expectations for the Bulldogs. “The process, the expectation, the determination to do things “The Butler Way” and to succeed by these two folks are somewhere about there.”
This Collier stood up and put his hand up, speaking of Butler President James Danko, Stevens and women’s basketball coach Beth Couture-hoping in the process to prove a point.
“That’s what is most important. These are who lead our young people and our the face of our program,” said Collier. “People are number one and that’s always been the case.”
Stevens concurred with Collier, saying the focus of the program doesn’t change with an elevated stage. While he believes the conference’s power with prospects and the renovations to Hinkle Fieldhouse will contribute to the recruiting effort, he doesn’t think they will be the ultimate factor.
“When you look back on your experience it’s about who you were with,” said Stevens. “That really takes the cake. It’s about who you were with and what that place did for you to give you your best 40 year window for success or fulfillment and I think this place does that.
“I think that’s what ultimately people should choose schools.”
No matter the big banner that sits in the front.