Southern Indiana City Considered Among the Country’s Worst for Basketball Fans
Indiana is basketball country. I know it and you know it. While we didn't invent the sport, we have adopted it as our own, and we're fortunate to have several college teams and one NBA team who have all seen their fair share of success over the years. However, a new study ranking nearly 300 cities of various sizes across the country puts one southern Indiana city as one of the worst for basketball fans, and I'm calling for a foul.
The study, conducted by WalletHub, looked at 296 cities across the country, separating them into large, midsize, and small based on population, as well as those with NBA teams and those with Division I college teams only. The study looked at a number of different metrics for each including the number of teams, the performance level of those teams (the number of wins divided by the total number of games played over the past three seasons), the number of championships, the venues where they play, and the amount of fan engagement for those teams, among others.
Evansville, Indiana Ranked Among the Worst Cities for Basketball Fans
Once the numbers were crunched, my/our hometown of Evansville ranked 275th out of 296 out of all the cities, and seventh worst in the midsize city category (67th out of 73). Now, I'm not going to sit here and argue with the numbers. They are what they are, and the numbers don't lie, as the old saying goes. We now have two Division I programs here with the University of Evansville (UE) and the University of Southern Indiana (USI), the latter of which just made the jump to D-I at the start of the Fall 2022 semester. Based solely on the metrics used in the study which place a significant amount of importance on wins, championships, and coaching turnover, or lack thereof, I will admit the two programs have not been stellar. After enjoying consistent success during the years Jim Crews served as the head coach (1985 - 2002), the Aces have struggled. They've been through six head coaches since he left, have a losing record over that time period, and have never won a regular season conference title, a conference tournament title, or made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament (they made four under Crews).
USI on the other hand has had better success winning a Division II National Championship in 1995 under Bruce Pearl, making numerous appearances in that tournament in the years that followed, and winning several conference titles. Since moving to Division I in the Fall of 2020, they are not eligible for the NCAA Division I tournament due to being under a four-year probationary period put in place by the NCAA anytime a team moves up a division.
The women's teams for both schools have followed similar patterns to their male counterparts with the UE Lady Aces holding an all-time losing record, but making NCAA Tournament appearances in 1999 and 2009. On the flip side, the USI women's team has been quite successful under 23-year head coach Rick Stein. They've won three conference tournaments and have made 12 appearances in the women's NCAA Division II tournament.
With all that said, I still disagree that we are one of the worst cities in the country for basketball fans. Again, I won't argue with the metrics. But, if you live here, you know we're passionate about the game. While we may not attend every UE or USI basketball game, we want to see them do well. Plus, Evansville has been the home of the Ohio Valley Conference Men's and Women's Basketball Tournament for the past several years and has hosted the Division II men's basketball Elite 8 the past four seasons, and will do so again in 2024 and 2025. That has to mean something, right?
My point is, let the numbers say what the numbers say. They don't tell the whole story. Personally, I think Evansville is a pretty good place to be a basketball fan. Am I biased because I'm from here? Sure. But if the numbers can say what they want to say, I can say what I want to say too.