Wednesday night my University of Evansville Purple Aces pulled out a three-point road victory against Wichita State. It was the Aces’ first win in Wichita since 2001.
The win gave the Aces a season sweep of the Shockers, a team that has spent a good part of the season ranked in the Top 25 and that will most likely be playing in the NCAA Tournament.
My euphoria was short-lived.
Yesterday Adidas unveiled alternate uniforms, including Zubaz-style shorts, for eight major college basketball programs: Louisville, UCLA, Baylor, Notre Dame, Kansas, and Cincinnati, along with the Notre Dame and Louisville women’s teams. Teams will debut these new uniforms during their conference tournaments or the NCAA Tournament.
UCLA, Baylor, and the Louisville men will wear jerseys with sleeves.
My Evansville Aces wore sleeved jerseys starting in the late 1940s through 1977 and again from 1986 until 2002. The sleeves brought Evansville five NCAA Division II National Championships and several Division I NCAA Tournament and NIT appearances.
Since eschewing the sleeves eleven years ago, the Aces have not won a conference regular season or tournament championship nor earned an NCAA or NIT bid.
Sleeves get results.
SpongeBob SquarePants is one of the few things in this world that I care about as much as the Evansville Purple Aces and their once-sleeved uniforms. I consider SpongeBob the pinnacle of children’s television programming, if not of western civilization in general. (I’m watching it right now.)
In the 2006 episode “Wigstruck” (you can watch it on Netflix) SpongeBob stumbles upon a six-layer powdered wig. He wears the wig everywhere he goes—at work, on the street, at the movie theater, etc.—and becomes a target of ridicule for the other residents of Bikini Bottom.
SpongeBob is eventually shamed into discarding the wig. When he does, it is discovered by Ned of Ned and the Needlefish, a band whose record label dropped them on account of Ned going bald. Ned dons the wig, and the Needlefish get their record deal and become the biggest band in Bikini Bottom.
Before long, everyone in town is wearing a large, powdered wig. Everyone but SpongeBob.
My Purple Aces are SpongeBob.
We had sleeves for decades. In 2002 then-coach Steve Merfeld, then-athletic director Bill McGillis, and the players at the time decided to cut them off. Tradition was no longer reason enough to be a college basketball curiosity.
Now Louisville, UCLA, and Baylor—the Ned and the Needlefish of the NCAA—like the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, will be wearing sleeves, if only part-time.
I can only hope that broadcasters during the Big East, Pac-12, Big 12, and NCAA Tournaments will remind viewers that Arad McCutchan, the longtime Evansville Aces coach who is now immortalized in the Basketball Hall of Fame, had the idea to wear sleeved jerseys more than 60 years ago, long before Adidas thought of it.
But I’m guessing that they won’t.