Starting in 2013, all but one of Butler's 19 intercollegiate teams compete in the BIG EAST Conference. Previously, Butler spent one year (2012-13) as a member of the Atlantic 10 Conference and 30 years in the Horizon League, where Butler was a founding member in 1979. The football team is a member of the Pioneer Football League (NCAA DI FCS), which includes Campbell, Davidson, Dayton, Drake, Jacksonville, Marist, Mercer, Morehead State, San Diego, Stetson and Valparaiso.
It was clear from the earliest days that athletics was destined to play a major role in shaping Butler University. When the school moved to its current Fairview campus location, two of the first structures completed were a 15,000-seat fieldhouse and a 36,000-seat football stadium. The football stadium, which came to be known as the Butler Bowl, was downsized to a 20,000-seat stadium in the mid-1950's. It was renovated again in 2010 and today it is the home field for Butler football and the men's and women's soccer teams. The fieldhouse, which was the largest of its kind when it was completed in 1928, is a historical landmark. The Butler Fieldhouse, which was renamed Hinkle Fieldhouse in 1966, came to symbolize not only Butler athletics, but also Indiana "Hoosier Hysteria." The building became the combined home of Butler basketball and the Indiana High School state tournament. The legends of Indiana basketball, from Oscar Robertson to George McGinnis to Larry Bird, all played in the Fieldhouse at one time or another.
While the Fieldhouse provided a nationally acclaimed setting for Butler athletics, it was Paul D. "Tony" Hinkle, credited with inventing the orange basketball, who brought national recognition to the school as a coach and athletic administrator. He came to Butler in 1921 and remained with the University until his death in 1992. Hinkle served as a teacher, coach and athletic administrator for nearly half a century and compiled more than 1,000 victories with the school's football, basketball and baseball teams.
The Bulldogs have carried on the winning traditions set forth by Hinkle. In the past decade, Butler teams have captured 29 conference championships (in four different leagues). The Bulldogs have made appearances in NCAA National Championship Tournaments in men's and women's basketball, men's soccer, volleyball, men's and women's cross country, lacrosse and baseball. The Butler men's basketball program is nationally known and advanced to the NCAA Division I National Championship Game in both 2010 and 2011. Butler won the James J. McCafferty trophy, awarded annually by the Horizon League for all-sports excellence based on conference championship points, a league record eight times, including three straight from 1996-97 to 1998-99 and back-to-back years in 2001-02 and 2002-03. The Bulldogs captured the trophy again in 2009-10 and 2010-11.
Prior to 1919, Butler's athletic teams were known as the "Christians". But numerous losses in the 1919 football season caused Butler's followers to grow weary of the nickname. During the week leading up to Butler's game with the heated rival Franklin "Baptists", Butler Collegian editor Alex Cavins and his staff, which included cartoonist George Dickson, decided something "hot" must be conceived for the school's weekly pep session.
About that time, the mascot of a Butler fraternity..... a bulldog named Shimmy (you couldn't shake him), wandered into the Collegian office. The idea was born. The next school paper came out with a big page-one cartoon showing Shimmy the bulldog, labeled "Butler", taking a bite out of the pants seat of a figure labeled John the Baptist. The caption was: "Bring on That Platter, Salome!" (Butler lost the game to Franklin, 14-0, but the name "Bulldogs" stuck).
Butler War Song
We'll sing the Butler War Song
We'll give a fighting cry
We'll fight the Butler battle
Bulldogs ever do or die
And in the glow of the victory firelight
History cannot deny
To add a page or two
For Butler's fighting crew
Beneath the Hoosier sky