The E is what makes it different. The E sets it apart from its older sibling. Some even say the E makes it better. But as advertisements in the St. Louis area like to ask: What does the E equal?
In 1957, the E stood for essential. As the Illinois communities east of St. Louis - locally referred to as the "Metro East" - began to grow in the post-World War II boom, citizens and businesses demanded a viable larger-scale public university in the area. Southern Illinois University, located almost 100 miles away in Carbondale, stepped in to fill the void with extension schools in East St. Louis and Alton, Illinois.
The E then stood for expansion, rapid expansion. Twice as many students than administration expectations enrolled at the original sites. Enrollment doubled again after just two years. The school was overwhelmed, and more room was needed fast.
In 1960, the E took on its actual meaning when the school acquired 2,660 acres of rolling farmland on the western edge of Edwardsville, Illinois, and began to build a permanent campus. By 1971, the campus had earned enough autonomy from the mother school it was given its full and current name: Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
For my family, the E stood for education and enlightenment. When I turned 13, my mother decided to go back to school, and SIUE stood as the best option. She spent four years making the 90-minute round-trip commute to Edwardsville. Sometimes during summer sessions, my younger sisters and I made the trip. Once I sat with my mom during a larger lecture class, and it was my first taste of what college would be like, especially at my much larger, above-the-red-line state school across the river in Missouri.
In the summer of 1997, my family all gathered at the Vadalabene Center to watch my mother receive her degree. It was a culmination of four years of long drives, late nights, and limited money. It was also a celebration of dreams accomplished, a rarity in our family to that point.
Tuesday night marked my first return to the Vadalabene Center since that momentous day. In the 14 years that had elapsed, SIUE decided to shed its reputation as a commuter school and become a major four-year, stay-here university. The E now stood for enterprise. The school built residence halls, expanded the Vadalabene Center, and decided to make the jump into NCAA Division I athletics.
SIUE is now in its fourth and final year of the transition phase, meaning the Cougars remain ineligible for postseason play. Their graduation to full-fledged membership comes next season. But with the transition comes a tougher schedule, as more Division I opponents must be played along with a full Ohio Valley Conference schedule this season. This night's opponent, though, were the Ball State Cardinals from the Mid-American Conference.
Ball State jumped out to a quick lead by making four of their first five shots, forcing SIUE coach Lennox Forrester to call a timeout four minutes into the game, once the margin hit 13-2. The Cougars managed to cut that lead to 15-11 within a couple minutes, but it was obvious Ball State would control the pace and tempo for the game after that. The Cougars always seemed to be a step behind defensively. It wasn't a talent issue. SIUE has talent. It was simply a matter of anticipation and movement in response to that anticipation that left Ball State's shooters open for threes and left the paint open for layups and dunks. The Cardinal lead grew to 14 after a buzzer-beating three by Jesse Berry.
The second half saw much of the same, as the Ball State lead slowly grew from hovering around 10, to hovering around 20, then flirting with 30 as the game wound down, finally settling at 76-55 at the final horn.
Some might say the E would currently stand for exasperation, because the losses can and will pile up. I would contend the E must stand for endurance. Four years can seem like a long time, especially closer to the end. But, then comes a celebration as the dream is finally achieved. For SIUE, and for the E that equals Each of Us, the day when the E stands for elation is hopefully closer than anyone ever realized.
BALL STATE 76, at SIU EDWARDSVILLE 55 12/06/2011
BALL STATE 5-2 (0-0) -- R. Davis 1-6 3-4 6; P. Sneed 2-3 1-2 6; J. Berry 8-13 5-6 25; J. Jones 6-8 9-11 22; J. Scaife 2-7 0-0 5; T. Koch 2-7 0-1 4; A. Adeoya 1-2 1-1 3; M. Kamieniecki 1-2 3-4 5; Z. Chapman 0-1 0-0 0; Z. Fields 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-49 22-29 76. SIU EDWARDSVILLE 1-6 (0-0) -- J. Jones 5-14 2-2 12; D. Shaffer 3-8 1-2 7; C. Wickware 0-5 0-0 0; K. Davis 3-8 0-1 7; M. Messer 4-5 2-2 12; C. Joy 2-7 3-4 7; M. Yelovich 2-3 5-6 10; K. Stineman 0-2 0-0 0; M. Birts 0-0 0-0 0; D. Boarden 0-1 0-0 0; R. Reed 0-1 0-0 0; Z. Schneider 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-54 13-17 55.
Three-point goals: BSU 8-22 (R. Davis 1-5; P. Sneed 1-1; J. Jones 1-1; T. Koch 0-2; J. Scaife 1-4; J. Berry 4-8; Z. Chapman 0-1), SIUE 4-24 (M. Yelovich 1-1; D. Boarden 0-1; K. Stineman 0-2; J. Jones 0-3; M. Messer 2-2; R. Reed 0-1; C. Wickware 0-5; K. Davis 1-5; C. Joy 0-4); Rebounds: BSU 35 (J. Jones 13), SIUE 27 (D. Shaffer 7); Assists: BSU 15 (R. Davis 9), SIUE 12 (K. Davis 4); Total Fouls -- BSU 16, SIUE 22; Fouled Out: BSU-None; SIUE-M. Messer.