Butler University is a private liberal arts university in Indianapolis, Indiana. It was founded by abolitionist and attorney Ovid Butler in 1855. It serves over 4,000 undergraduate and graduate students. North Western Christian University was the name when the school opened on November 1, 1855, at what is now 13th and College, with no president, 2 professors, and 20 students. In 1875, the university moved to a 25-acre campus in Irvington. It was there that the school was renamed Butler University "in recognition of Ovid Butler's inspirational vision, determined leadership, and financial support." In 1922, they purchased Fairview Park, and in 1928, moved their campus to the current Fairview location.
Butler University's athletic teams, known as the Bulldogs, compete in the NCAA Division I Horizon League, which they joined in 1979. From 1932 to 1934 Butler was affiliated with the Missouri Valley Conference. From 1946 to 1950 they were part of the Mid-American Conference. The women's program has been competing in the Horizon League since 1986.
Prior to 1919, Butler's athletic teams were known as the "Christians". But numerous losses in the 1919 football season caused Butler's followers to grow weary of the nickname. During the week leading up to Butler's game with the heated rival Franklin "Baptists", Butler Collegian editor Alex Cavins and his staff, which included cartoonist George Dickson, decided something "hot" must be conceived for the school's weekly pep session.
About that time, the mascot of a Butler fraternity, a bulldog named Shimmy (you couldn't shake him), wandered into the Collegian office. The idea was born. The next school paper came out with a big page-one cartoon showing Shimmy the bulldog, labeled "Butler", taking a bite out of the pants seat of a figure labeled John the Baptist. The caption was: "Bring on That Platter, Salome!" (Butler lost the game to Franklin, 14-0, but the name "Bulldogs" stuck).
Butler's basketball arena, Hinkle Fieldhouse, was the largest basketball arena in the US for several decades. It is considered a Hoosier Hysteria icon: from its opening in 1928 until 1971, it was the site of the final rounds of the Indiana state high school basketball tournament.
In 1954, Butler hosted the historic final when Milan High School (enrollment 161) defeated Muncie Central High School (enrollment over 1,600) to win the state title. The state final depicted in the 1986 movie Hoosiers, loosely based on the Milan Miracle story, was shot in Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Butler's prowess in basketball dates back many decades. The 1924 team, coached by Hall of Famer Harlan Page, won the AAU tournament (long before there were NCAA or NIT tournaments). The legendary Tony Hinkle, another Hall of Famer, coached the Bulldogs for 41 years. His 1929 team claimed to be national champions.
More recently the Butler program has traditionally been one of the best of the so-called "Mid-major" basketball programs over the last decade, having won at least 20 games and reached postseason play eight of the last ten seasons, including five NCAA Tournaments. The now-unique style of team play that many have said harkens back to the Hoosier glory days, as well as being called the way the game should be played, has been dubbed "The Butler Way" by the Bulldog program.
The Bulldogs won the 2006 NIT Season Tip-Off, which in part helped them to be named one of the top 12 underdog sports stories of 2006 by ESPN. During the 2006-07 season, Butler junior guard A.J. Graves was named a Wooden Award National Player of the Year finalist in men's college basketball, while former Head Coach Todd Lickliter was named a finalist for National Coach of the Year.
Butler reached the Sweet Sixteen as a No. 12 seed in the 2003 NCAA Division I Tournament by defeating No. 5 Mississippi State and No. 4 Louisville, becoming that year's Cinderella team. Butler also defeated Wake Forest, 79-63, in the first round of the 2001 NCAA Tournament as a No. 10 seed, while their heartbreaking 69-68 overtime loss to eventual national runner-up Florida in the 2000 tournament as a No. 12 seed has seen regular rotation on TV over the years as an ESPN "Classic". Butler's exclusion as a 25-5 team from the 2002 tournament was also considered the worst NCAA selection "snub" in several years.
Of note, Butler has the best winning percentage and most wins of all NCAA Division I men's basketball programs in the state of Indiana over the last decade (21.6 wins per year through 2006), while having won the last six meetings with in-state rival Notre Dame and two of the last four against Indiana University, while also defeating in-state rival Purdue to move to 2-0 against the Boilermakers this decade. Butler has also been the defending champion of the Hoosier Classic men's basketball tournament since the 2001-02 season, and has advanced to postseason play eight of the last ten years (5 NCAAs, 3 NITs). Butler has been to six NCAA Tournaments since 1997.