By Todd Golden
St. LOUIS — Indiana State men's basketball coach Royce Waltman was just the beginning as far as Missouri Valley Conference coaching changes.
The University of Evansville's web site reported Saturday that Steve Merfeld has resigned as the Purple Aces' coach
His exit had been widely speculated among observers at the Missouri Valley Conference tournament since the Aces were eliminated by Drake on Thursday.
"I am very thankful for the opportunity that the University of Evansville provided me and my family," said Merfeld in a university release. "I am very appreciative of my assistant coaches, knowing that they poured their heart and soul into this basketball program. We did experience success in moving this program forward from where it was five years ago."
Evansville Director of Athletics Bill McGillis lauded Merfeld's commitment.
"I regret that Steve will not continue as our head men’s basketball coach. I am proud of the leadership he has provided our basketball program and the manner in which he has coached, mentored and served the young men on our team," McGillis said. "Unfortunately, for whatever reasons the right set of circumstances have not aligned and resulted in the on-court success that we expected. Steve is a proven winner who, I believe, will achieve great success again. We wish him the very best.
Merfeld went 54-91 in five seasons at Evansville. He took over the program after a successful run at Hampton University, including a NCAA Tournament victory in 2000. Evansville was 14-17 this season with a senior-laden team.
Drake sports information director Mike Mahon denied a Des Moines radio station report that Drake coach Tom Davis has decided to retire. Davis led Drake to a 17-15 record, the Bulldogs' first winning season in since 1987.
Drake has already announced its succession plan once Davis does retire. His son and current assistant Keno Davis will take over.
• Record day for the Valley — Interest in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament reached new heights on Saturday when the semifinal session sold out for the time since the tournament moved to St. Louis in 1991. Attendance for Southern Illinois' 53-51 victory over Bradley and Creighton's 75-58 win over Missouri State was 22,612, an all-time record for the Scottrade Center. The total smashed the previous tournament record of 17,772, set during the 2006 semifinals.
The Scottrade Center record broke the previous mark of 22,539, set when North Carolina played Saint Louis on Dec. 22, 2006.
The four-day session total attendance is 62,462, just shy of the all-time five-day total of 63,739 set in 2006.