When Anderson University men’s basketball coach Tom Slyder was a player for the Ravens in the late 1980s, the biggest names to fall on the team’s schedule involved the likes of Ohio University and Central Michigan.
Nothing too earth-shattering at the time, the 1988 AU graduate recalled, but a notable step for a NCAA Div. III school eager to compete.
“When I was a player, we played Central Michigan when Dan Majerle was there,” said Slyder, who will begin his third season as head coach this winter. “In the past few years, we’ve played (NCAA Div. I) Ball State, Murry State, Butler, IPFW … and Eastern Michigan.”
On Nov. 7, the Ravens will add Indiana University to the list — a historic one.
According to the Ravens’ 2008-09 season schedule, AU is set to open the exhibition season at Assembly Hall, where they will contend with the Div. I Hoosiers in Bloomington. The first-ever matchup between the Hoosiers and Ravens will be televised on the Big Ten Network, with the game time yet to be determined. [The game will be streamed at on the Big Ten Network in Assembly Hall at 7 p.m. on November 7th.]
“We’ve had that excitement for about a month when we heard about it,” Slyder remarked on the marquee opportunity. “Every kid in our program has dreamed about this at some point. Now, they’ll get their chance. It’s a once in a lifetime experience.”
The game will mark the Hoosiers’ home opener and the debut of new IU head coach Tom Crean following a season marred by the much-publicized divorce between former coach Kelvin Sampson and the university. The Hoosiers are still facing possible NCAA sanctions due to telephone recruiting violations under Sampson.
The Ravens, on the other hand, finished 15-12 overall for second in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference. In 2008-09, AU returns 10 players led by first-team all-conference Mike Russell and Ryan Fultz.
And beyond the Hoosiers, AU will contend with a litany of challengers once the regular season opens on Nov. 17 at O.C. Lewis Gymnasium versus Alma at 7:30 p.m.
“At the moment, it’s the most competitive schedule I’ve ever been a part of and frankly, it’s by design,” Slyder said. “Our guys have a challenge ahead of them.”
On Nov. 25, AU hosts University of Wisconsin-Platteville, a four-time national champion under coach Bo Ryan. In this year’s Sam Pierce Chevrolet Tournament, the Ravens will host Aurora University and the defending national champions from Washington University. On Jan. 3, Elmhurst College, a team ranked in the Top 25 most of last season, comes to Madison County after AU travels to San Antonio, Texas, for a holiday trip with games scheduled against Texas Lutheran and Howard Payne.
The Ravens’ schedule features 14 home games and 11 away contests. On Dec. 19, AU will face Trine University at Conseco Fieldhouse prior to the Indiana Pacers for an matinee contest.
“As a coach at any level to able to, as I imagine, to bring in teams like Wisconsin-Platteville and Washington University, the defending national champion, to our home court is a rarity,” Slyder remarked.
The same can be said for playing in front of 17,000 fans wearing cream and crimson.
“Who knows where we go from here? Like I told our guys, I don’t know what the exact percentages are, but who can say, ‘I played at Assembly Hall or against a Big Ten school?’ We’re going to make it a special weekend,” Slyder said. “We just want to go in there and etch a lot of memories.”
Tickets to Anderson University men’s basketball games are available through the ticket office. Call (765) 641-3886 for more information.
—Richard Torres is a reporter for the Herald Bulletin. Story republished with permission.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,750 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2008, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the fourth consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.