1970s1980sBasketballFinal FoursNCAASpecials

NCAAM – NBC Special – Al McGuire Remembers Evansville & Previews 1985 Finals


This video is dedicated to the 19 members of the Evansville Purple Aces team and coaching staff….who lost their lives on that dreadful day on December 13, 1977….when the Air Indiana Flight 216 Douglas DC-3 carrying the University of Evansville basketball team….crashed on takeoff at the Evansville Regional Airport in Evansville, Indiana. The aircraft lost control and crashed shortly after lift-off….as the plane was on its way to Nashville International Airport….taking the team to play the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders.  Anything that comes up that is related to this event….brings back memories of a conversation that Bone Daddy had with Pops (his Dad) following the tragic crash….regarding how the crash could have been avoided.  As far back as when BD was no more than 5 years old…..when he expressed his fear about Pops being a pilot….and BD’s concern about his father’s well being….as Pops would console him by telling him by telling him how safe airplanes really are…..and that 96% of all plane crashes are pilot errors….not mechanical errors where something went wrong with the airplane….and each time the conversation of why an airplane crash would happen….Pops would always remind him that outside of sabotage or attack…..most likely the reason for the crash was pilot error.  Just as a matter of interest….Pops flew a DC-3…..taildragger as he called it….for many years is his 40+ years as a commercial pilot.

The National Transportation Safety Board blamed the Evansville crash on the pilot’s failure to remove gust locks on the right aileron and the rudder before takeoff….as well as an overloaded baggage compartment. The NTSB report said that the plane might have been able to stay airborne had only one of the problems existed. As it was, the extra baggage shifted the plane’s center of gravity to the back end, and the locked rudder and aileron made it impossible to provide the needed lift to overcome the extra weight.

Two weeks after the crash, the only member of the basketball team who was not on the DC-3 was killed after being hit by a drunk driver, leaving all of the members of the 1977 Purple Aces Basketball team dead. A memorial has been constructed at the University of Evansville known as the “Weeping Basketball.” On stone slabs are engraved the names of the members killed in both the plane crash as well as the student killed in a car accident. Also engraved is an excerpt from the eulogy delivered by school president William Graves at a memorial service: “Out of the agony of this hour we will rise.”


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