The Air Indiana Flight 216 crash occurred on December 13, 1977, at 19:22 CST, when a Douglas DC-3, registration N51071 carrying the University of Evansville basketball team, crashed on takeoff at the Evansville Regional Airport in Evansville, Indiana. The aircraft lost control and crashed shortly after lift-off. The plane was on its way to Nashville International Airport, taking the team to play the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders.
The National Transportation Safety Board blamed the crash on the pilot’s failure to remove gust locks on the right aileron and the rudder before takeoff, as well as an overloaded baggage compartment. The NTSB report said that the plane might have been able to stay airborne had only one of the problems existed. As it was, the extra baggage shifted the plane’s center of gravity to the back end, and the locked rudder and aileron made it impossible to provide the needed lift to overcome the extra weight.
Two weeks after the crash, the only member of the basketball team who was not on the DC-3 was killed after being hit by a drunk driver, leaving all of the members of the 1977 Purple Aces Basketball team dead. A memorial has been constructed at the University of Evansville known as the “Weeping Basketball.” On stone slabs are engraved the names of the members killed in both the plane crash as well as the student killed in a car accident. Also engraved is an excerpt from the eulogy delivered by school president William Graves at a memorial service: “Out of the agony of this hour we will rise.”