Ford Center to host first Division II event

Zane Clodfelter

Although the site now boasts nothing more than a large hole, the intersection of Boeke Avenue and Division Street in Evansville was once home to Roberts Stadium, a destination for Division II basketball programs across the country.

From 1957-1976, Roberts Stadium hosted the Division II Elite Eight and national championship, in addition to countless regular season games. After the 1976 tournament, the Elite Eight moved from Evansville only to return for one season in 2002 before leaving again for a different city.

Now Evansville’s newly opened Ford Center has its first opportunity to host a Division II event. The opportunity is brought about by the GLVC tournament coming to Evansville this weekend for the first time since Roberts Stadium last hosted the event in 2007.

“USI has a big impact with the city,” said Scott Schoenike, executive director of the Ford Center. “When the bidding process opened up, we wanted to go after it.”

Next year the Elite Eight will return to Evansville, and Schoenike says this year’s GLVC tournament will go a long way in helping his team prepare for the event coming to the downtown arena next March.

“The GLVC has been really helpful in helping us plan and we’ll use the information that we learn this weekend for future tournaments that we host,” Schoenike said.

With the GLVC tournament back in Evansville for the first time since 2007, USI men’s basketball Head Coach Rodney Watson hopes his team can create excitement and enthusiasm for the event.

“We have some responsibility with this tournament coming to Evansville,” Watson said. “We need to put on a good show and be responsible for generating fan support for this tournament.”

Even though the game isn’t on campus, USI junior guard Lawrence Thomas says the tournament being in Evansville creates a “home feeling.”

“It’s right down the street and we should have a nice fan base there with it being in Evansville,” Thomas said.

The Eagles (20-6, 13-5 GLVC) enter the GLVC tournament as the defending tournament champions and are the number-three seed heading into Thursday’s 8:30 quarterfinal matchup against number-six seed Lewis (19-8, 12-6 GLVC).

The teams split the regular season series against each other as both teams won on their opponent’s home court, with Lewis beating USI at the PAC 63-59 after the Eagles won 65-64 in Romeoville, Ill.