Myth Busters: Evansville's Shirt Sleeves

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The Jays take on Evansville this weekend, so I decided to do some research to solve an urban legend my friends and I have wrestled with for some time: the Evansville Purple Aces T-shirt jerseys. My first year at CU, 1997-98, I remember the first time I saw those heinous softball-jersey contraptions, and getting the hiccups from laughing so much for such a long period of time.

Someone in the Birdcage (had to be 7, 8 people in there that night -- and 4 of them were only there for the free Godfather's Pizza supplied to the student section at halftime) told me to stop laughing, because the jerseys were a tribute to the 1977 Evansville team that had perished in a plane crash. According to this guy, the team had worn them that year as a reaction to the disco fashion of the era, believing they were starting a trend. They didn't, obviously, but the school continued wearing them as a tribute.

Having no reason to find fault in his story, I believed it, and ceased mocking the ridiculous sleeves post haste. In fact, I believed it up until about 2 days ago. While reading a fascinating article about two groundbreaking D-II coaches from years gone by, I discovered a far different genesis for the Evansville sleeves. From the article on
...McCutchan might be as well known for the "sleeves" as anything during his tenure at Evansville.

For 30 years, the men's basketball team wore its trademark T-shirt style jerseys, which McCutchan started in 1947. They also wore red socks at all home games -- another McCutchan tradition -- that lasted even longer than the T-shirt tops.

In an interview in 1964, McCutchan explained why he preferred the T-shirt jersey for his players.

"I feel that is what most players wear in practice and, therefore, what they are most comfortable in," he said. "It's also more flattering to a thin ballplayer."

Former Indiana Pacers star Don Buse, who joins Utah Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan as the two most famous players to play for McCutchan, insists that was the whole story on the sleeves -- being more flattering to a thin player.

"That's what he told me," Buse said. "He told me that high-school kids, especially at that time, didn't have the upper body and felt more comfortable with sleeves. He said high-school kids just didn't have the muscles."

Sloan concurred with Buse's explanation of what McCutchan said about the T-shirts, which were retired the year after McCutchan retired in 1977. Oh, there was a brief comeback when Jim Crews (currently the coach of Army) returned to sleeves in his second year as coach at Evansville in 1986.

"Coach also had us in boxing robes, rather than warm-ups," Sloan said of his time with the Purple Aces in the mid-1960s. "Arad used to say, 'By the time you pull off the long pants (of the warm-ups), you might have missed a chance to get into the game.' So we went with the robes. Hey, you couldn't argue with that."
Sloan remembered there were eight to 10 different colors of robes.

So that's the story? A coach's fashion decision, based on his belief that sleeves were more flattering to thinner-physiqued players? That's fascinating for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is that it makes mocking the sleeves acceptable practice once more.

Looks like this Myth has been busted.

You bet.

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This page contains a single entry by Max Univers published on January 6, 2007 4:55 PM.

2006-07 Game 13: Jays 52, Indiana State 55 was the previous entry in this blog.

2006-07 Game 14: Jays 75, Evansville 62 is the next entry in this blog.

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