Valparaiso Crusaders

The Valparaiso Crusaders are 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 and are members of the Missouri Valley Conference in all sports except football, bowling, men's tennis, and men's swimming.

Valparaiso Crusaders
UniversityValparaiso University
ConferenceMissouri Valley Conference
Pioneer Football League (football)
Southland Bowling League (women's bowling)
Summit League (men's swimming, men's tennis)
NCAADivision I / FCS
Athletic directorMark LaBarbera
LocationValparaiso, Indiana
Varsity teams19 (17 in 2020-21)
Football stadiumBrown Field
Basketball arenaAthletics–Recreation Center
Baseball stadiumEmory G. Bauer Field
Soccer stadiumBrown Field
MascotThe Crusader
ColorsBrown and Gold[1]

On May 8, 2017, the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) extended an invitation to Valparaiso to join the conference effective July 1, 2017.[2] Valparaiso accepted the invitation on May 25.[3][4] The men's teams in swimming and tennis moved to the Summit League when Valparaiso joined the MVC.[5] The Valparaiso football team remains in the Pioneer Football League,[6] and the bowling team remains in the Southland Bowling League.

On November 20, 2019, Valpo announced that the men's soccer and tennis teams would be eliminated to allow greater attention to the school's other sports teams. [7]


Conference affiliation

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.

YearsFootballMen's basketballWomen's basketball
1982–1987Division IIAssociation of Mid-Continent Universities
1987–1989North Star Conference
1989–1992Mid-Continent Conference
1992–1993Mid-Continent Conference
1993–2007Pioneer Football League
2007–2017Horizon League
2017–presentMissouri Valley Conference


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.[8] 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 trademarked 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,[9] only Valpo and the College of the Holy Cross maintain Crusaders at the NCAA Division I level.

Sports sponsored

Men's sports Women's sports
Cross countryCross country
Track and fieldTrack and field
† – Track and field includes both indoor and outdoor.

A member of the Missouri Valley Conference, Valparaiso sponsors teams in ten men's and eleven women's NCAA sanctioned sports.


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.[10] 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

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

1951Cigar BowlWisconsin-La Crosse47Valparaiso14

Men's basketball

The Crusaders basketball program began in 1917. As a Division II school, the Crusaders appeared in Division II NCAA Tournaments five times, advancing to the Elite Eight twice. They became a Division I school in 1978. From 1988 to 2016, the team was coached by Homer Drew, his son Scott Drew, or his other son Bryce Drew. Under the Drews, the Crusaders won 10 conference tournament championships and appeared in the NCAA Tournament nine times. The Crusaders are currently coached by Matt Lottich and play their home games at the Athletics–Recreation Center.

Men's tennis

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 berth 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

The Crusaders women's basketball team started play during the 1971-1972 season. The team joined the North Star Conference for the 198788 season. In 1990–91, 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 199293 season was their first season in the Mid-Continent Conference (now known as The Summit League). 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

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).


The Crusader softball team has won three Horizon League softball championships in the last six years and advanced to the NCAA Tournament three times. Valpo won the Horizon League for the first time and 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 Crusader softball team repeated as Horizon League champions and 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.

Valpo captured its third Horizon League title in a five-year span and advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2016. The Crusaders were sent to the Ann Arbor Regional, where they lost to Michigan and Notre Dame.

Track and field

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.[11]

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 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 its conference championships. [12]


  1. "Color Palette and Typography | Valparaiso University Brand". June 20, 2014. Retrieved April 13, 2016.
  2. "Missouri Valley extends invitation to Valparaiso as Wichita State replacement". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2017-05-09.
  3. Wessler, Kirk. "Valparaiso accepts invite to join the Missouri Valley". Journal Star. Retrieved 2017-05-25.
  4. Technologies, Streamline. "Valparaiso University to Join Missouri Valley Conference". Retrieved 2017-05-25.
  5. "Valparaiso University to Join Summit League in Men's Tennis, Men's Swimming" (Press release). Valparaiso Crusaders. June 12, 2017. Retrieved June 12, 2017.
  6. "Valpo will remain in Pioneer League despite Missouri Valley invite | FOX Sports". FOX Sports. 2017-05-09. Retrieved 2017-05-10.
  7. "Valparaiso to drop men's soccer, men's tennis". The Times/ Lee Enterprises, Inc. November 20, 2019. Retrieved 22 November 2019.
  8. Questioning the Crusader posted 15 November 2006.
  9. Glenn Arthur Pierce, "5 Things You Didn’t Know About Team Nicknames and Mascots" (2015/2016),, 2015/2016.
  10. " - Official Athletic Site of the Valparaiso University Crusaders" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-07-11.
  11. Rolf Earns All-American Honors in Mile Run
  12. "Hoger Track Dedicated Saturday Afternoon". 2014-10-12. Retrieved 2015-07-11.
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