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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Bringing back the spirit of Butler


By Ferd Lewis

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Ovid Butler

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If you haven't already, you're going to be hearing plenty about my guys this week, so before another century flies by, permit me to re-introduce myself.

I'm Ovid Butler or, as the youngins who play this curious game called "basketball" might introduce me now, " 'ol' O.B."

Still doesn't ring a bell? Well, I'm sure you know the school they named after me, Butler University.

I thought the name I gave the small Indianapolis liberal arts college I founded out of my own pocket, North Western Christian University, kind of flowed, but I understand things can change in 155 years.

I mean, I see where we beat Kansas State in something called the "Elite Eight" and I can remember when Kansas wasn't a state, but part of the Missouri Territory and the edge of civilization.

They tell me my school out in what used to be the cornfields has raised a heckuva din, stoking this March Madness.

Up here in Crown Hill Cemetery, a few Shelvin Mack 3-pointers away from the Lucas Oil Stadium, site of the Final Four, I hear people singing our praises. I'd be 209 years old if I were alive today older than Larry Brown but I'm proof Dick Vitale can rouse the dead, baby.

People are excited that we have the nation's longest winning streak at 24 games and are 30-4. Those things are nice, but what pops the buttons on my frock coat is that they have stayed true to the original mission of the school equality and tolerance for all in their own way.

I taught that all people, regardless of gender, race or religion, should be free to pursue their dreams. More than a decade before the Civil War, I was an outspoken abolitionist, taking up action and pen to condemn slavery on moral and religious grounds, fighting the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.

I was happy when we won national hoops titles in 1924 and '29. Thrilled, when they shot the movie "Hoosiers" in our gym.

But as my relatives will tell you, none of that meant as much to me as the fact that we were among the first to admit African Americans as students and hire women to teach and serve on our board of directors.

In their own, smaller way, of course, our Bulldogs are making a sporting statement about equality today. Labeled a "mid major" they've kicked fanny against UCLA, Ohio State and Syracuse. Hopefully, Michigan State is next.

People used to call me severe and austere. And I don't pretend to understand this thing called hoops. But, dude, I'm down with the spirit of my guys who play it.