Valparaiso Crusaders

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Valparaiso Crusaders
University Valparaiso University
Conference Horizon League
NCAA Division I
Division I FCS (football)
Athletic director Mark LaBarbera
Location Valparaiso, Indiana
Varsity teams 19
Football stadium Brown Field
Basketball arena Athletics–Recreation Center
Baseball stadium Emory G. Bauer Field
Soccer stadium Eastgate Field
Mascot The Crusader
Nickname Crusaders
Colors Brown and Gold[1]
Valparaiso University Athletics wordmark.svg

The Valparaiso Crusaders is the name of the athletic teams from Valparaiso University, often referred to as Valpo, in Valparaiso, Indiana, United States. The Crusaders compete in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) at the Division I level as members of the Horizon League in all sports except football and bowling, neither of which is sponsored by the conference.


A member of the Horizon League, Valparaiso University sponsors teams in ten men's and eleven women's NCAA sanctioned sports:[2]

Men's intercollegiate sports Head coach Women's intercollegiate sports Head coach
Baseball Brian Schmack Basketball Tracey Dorow
Basketball Matt Lottich Bowling[v 1] Shon Washington
Cross Country Mike Straubel Cross Country Mike Straubel
Football[v 2] Dave Cecchini Golf Jonathan Haas
Golf David Gring Soccer John Marovich
Soccer Mike Avery Softball Kate Stake
Swimming Howard Hunte Swimming Howard Hunte
Tennis Jim Daugherty Tennis Tammy Cecchini
Track & Field (Indoor & Outdoor) Ryan Moore Track & Field (Indoor & Outdoor) Ryan Moore
Volleyball Carin Avery
  1. ^ The bowling team competes as a member of the Southland Bowling League.[3]
  2. ^ The football team competes as a member of the Pioneer Football League, a non-scholarship Division I (FCS) league.

Conference affiliation[edit]

The Crusaders first joined a Division I conference in 1982 when the men's basketball team joined the Mid-Continent Conference. Other sports joined conferences in later years.

Years Football Men's basketball Women's basketball
1982–1987 Division II Mid-Continent Conference
1987–1992 Division II Mid-Continent Conference North Star Conference
1992–1993 Division II Mid-Continent Conference Mid-Continent Conference
1993–2007 Pioneer Football League Mid-Continent Conference Mid-Continent Conference
2007–present Pioneer Football League Horizon League Horizon League


Victory Bell in front of the old Hilltop Gym and ARC

VU plays its home football games, as well as men's and women's soccer games, at Brown Field, which has a seating capacity of 5,000 people and opened in 1919. Surrounding Brown Field is the Warren G. Hoger Track, home to the track and field teams. The basketball, swimming, and volleyball teams play at the adjacent Athletics-Recreation Center (ARC), which has a capacity of 5,000. The Crusaders' baseball team plays at Emory G. Bauer Field. The tennis teams use the Valparaiso University Tennis Complex. The cross country teams compete at Sunset Hills Farm.


After years of going without one, Valparaiso University pursued a mascot in 1931. The Uhlan was chosen over the Dunesmen and the Vandals.[4] After debate in 1941 over choosing a mascot less proximate to the Nazi cause, the Crusader was chosen as the new mascot in 1942. The original illustrated mascot was penned by a Disney artist and patented in 1951, and used until 2010, when the school rebranded itself athletically and academically.

Owing to the Post-9/11 controversy over the “Crusaders” nickname,[5] only Valpo and the College of the Holy Cross maintain Crusaders at the NCAA Division I level.


The Valparaiso football program was started in 1919, as prior to this point the administration believed athletics were a distraction from academic pursuits. George Keogan, who also coached the men's basketball team, was the first coach. The first game was October 4 at Brown Field, a win over the Chicago YMCA team 26-0. The team had a 5-3 record that year.[6] In 1943 and 1944, the Crusaders did not field a football team due to World War II.

The Crusaders resumed their football program in 1945. That year, they joined their first conference, the Indiana Collegiate Conference, their home until 1976. The post-war years began a tremendous run of coaching stability. They hired Emory Bauer in 1946. Bauer would coach the team until 1967. Walt Reiner would also coach the team from 1957 until 1964. Until 2006, only four other men would coach the Crusaders. This includes Stacy Adams who in 2005 became the university's first African American head coach.

In 1977, the Crusaders joined the Heartland Collegiate Conference. In 1990, the Crusaders moved to the Midwest Intercollegiate Football Conference. During their time in these conferences, they would lose more often than win.

Division I[edit]

Valparaiso Crusaders players in a huddle

In 1993, the NCAA mandated that schools playing Division I basketball may only play football in Division I. The Crusaders along with five other schools formed the Pioneer Football League, where they remain today. Playing primarily against non-scholarship teams, the Crusaders' reversed their fortunes. They won their first outright championship in 2003, when they won the PFL championship game.

Bowl games[edit]

Season Bowl Champion Runner-Up
1951 Cigar Bowl Wisconsin-La Crosse 47 Valparaiso 14

Men's basketball[edit]

The Crusaders basketball program began in 1917. Since then, they have won 8 conference championship tournaments and appeared in the NCAA tournament 7 times.They are currently coached by Matt Lottich and play their home games at the Athletics-Recreation Center.

Men's tennis[edit]

In 2016, the Crusaders won their first Horizon League regular season and tournament championship defeating defending champion Wisconsin-Green Bay 4-0 in the Horizon League Championship. The win clinched Valpo's first NCAA Tournament birth in program history where they fell to Northwestern 4-1 in the first round, recording the first point a horizon league school had won in the NCAA tournament in 22 years.


The Crusaders baseball team advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2012, where they lost to play Purdue and Kentucky in the Gary Regional. The regional was played at the U.S. Steel Yard. The Crusaders advanced in 2013 after winning their second straight Horizon League title, where they lost to Indiana, eliminated Florida, and lost to Austin Peay in the Bloomington Regional.

Women's basketball[edit]

The Crusaders women's basketball team started play during the 1971-1972 season. The team joined the North Star Conference for the 1987-1988 season. In 1990-1991, the Crusaders reached the finals of the North Star Conference Tournament before losing to DePaul. The Crusaders' best season in the North Star Conference was 1991-1992. That year, they finished with a record of 20-9. The 1992-1993 season was their first season in the Mid-Continent Conference. The Crusaders advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2003 and 2004 seasons under coach Keith Freeman. The Crusaders lost in the first round each of these years, to Purdue and Kansas State, respectively. Marlous Nieuwveen is the only Crusader to appear in a WNBA game. Debbie Bolen (1989–1993) and hall of fall class of 1999, is the current holder of 18 single game records, season and career women's basketball individual records including points scored, scoring average, most field goals, most free throws, assists, and steals.

Women's golf[edit]

In 1964, Patti Shook won the women's individual intercollegiate golf championship (an event conducted by the Division of Girls' and Women's Sports (DGWS) — which later evolved into the current NCAA women's golf championship).

Women's volleyball[edit]

The women's volleyball team has appeared in the NCAA Tournament in 1994, 1995 and 2003–2005.

Women's soccer[edit]

In 2005 and 2014, the Crusaders advanced to the NCAA Tournament.

Men's soccer[edit]

In 1996, the Crusaders advanced to the NCAA Tournament.


The Crusaders softball team advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2012, where they lost to Louisville in the first round of the Louisville Regional. In the second round, the Crusaders lost to Kentucky. The Crusaders softball team advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2013, where they lost to Michigan in the first round of the Ann Arbor Regional. In the second round, the Crusaders eliminated Central Michigan. However, they lost to California in the third round.

Track & field[edit]

In 2007, the women's team finished in third place in the Mid-Continent Conference championships, only losing to Southern Utah and Oral Roberts. The men's team finished fifth. In addition, sophomore Laura Rolf was named an All-American in the mile run, finishing tenth at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championship.[7]

On October 11, 2014 the Warren G. Hoger Track was officially dedicated by University President Mark Heckler, donor Jay Christopher, Warren Hoger, athletic director Mark LaBarbera, head coach Ryan Moore and athlete Alex Vasile. The ribbon was cut at on Brown Field during the halftime of the Crusader football game.

The Valparaiso University Track and Field team is made of men and women competing in different events including sprints, distance, jumps and throws. The team competes in an indoor and outdoor season both leading up to the Horizon League Conference Championships. [8]


  1. ^ "Color Palette and Typography | Valparaiso University Brand". 2014-06-20. Retrieved 2016-04-13. 
  2. ^ "Valpo Crusaders/Official Webite of Valpo Athletics". Valparaiso University. Retrieved 19 December 2016. 
  3. ^ "New Southland Bowling League Established" (Press release). Southland Conference. January 20, 2015. Retrieved March 15, 2015. 
  4. ^ Questioning the Crusader posted 15 November 2006.
  5. ^ Glenn Arthur Pierce, "5 Things You Didn’t Know About Team Nicknames and Mascots" (2015/2016),, 2015/2016.
  6. ^ " - Official Athletic Site of the Valparaiso University Crusaders" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-07-11. 
  7. ^ Rolf Earns All-American Honors in Mile Run
  8. ^ "Hoger Track Dedicated Saturday Afternoon". 2014-10-12. Retrieved 2015-07-11. 

External links[edit]