THE BLADE/JETTA FRASER Enlarge | Buy This Photo
Much was made this football season of the ripe age, just 32 years, of first-year University of Toledo coach Matt Campbell.
Turns out, one of Campbell’s colleagues has him beat.
Women’s basketball coach Tricia Cullop was only 29 when Evansville took a chance and hired her as head coach, a leap of faith she appreciates more than a decade later. Memories from her eight seasons at the liberal arts school in southwest Indiana have reemerged this week, as Cullop prepares to face her former team for the first time since coming to Toledo five years ago. The Rockets (8-1) will face Evansville (2-7) today at 7 p.m. in the opening round of the two-day Toledo Invite at Savage Arena.
"I’m very grateful for my time there and very appreciative of all the people I worked with and the teams and the players I had a chance to coach," Cullop said. "It’s been a while since I’ve been there and I’m very comfortable here and looking forward to what we need to accomplish this season."
In her second season at Evansville, in 2001-02, Cullop led the Purple Aces to an upset win over No. 24 Toledo in a regular season tournament at Colorado State.
Cullop left Evansville after posting a 21-win season in 2007-08, her fourth straight year with a winning record. The program is just 34-99 since — with 15 of those wins coming in the first year after Cullop departed — and underwent another coaching change two seasons ago. Only one player still on the team, senior forward Chelsea Falkenstein, was brought in by Cullop. Cullop had plans to scout center Samantha Heck before she resigned.
"There are other players I’ve coached against that have chosen somewhere else to play, so you have to look at it the same way," Cullop said. "I’m sure there will be fans in the stands that will make the trip from Evansville, and I look forward to seeing them."
Rounding out the tournament field will be Hampton (7-3) and Prairie View A&M (2-5), which will square off at 4:30 p.m. Two games are scheduled for Friday, ending with Toledo against Hampton or Prairie View A&M at 7 p.m.
Cullop said her history with Evansville played no part in luring the Purple Aces to the tournament but rather a member of that team’s coaching staff responded to an Internet posting.
NOTES: Freshman guard Kendyl Nunn is expected to miss at least another month with a stress fracture in her foot. Cullop said she will consider redshirting her. ... Cullop is elated for Brendon Schwiebert, the former women’s practice player who joined the men’s team last week and scored nine points in Tuesday’s exhibition win over Siena Heights. "The only thing I hate about [Tuesday] is I was gone recruiting so I was texting our players to find out how he did. I couldn’t be more thrilled for him."