By Mark Janssen
On your mark, get set, go, and go, and go, and go some more.
The annual Kansas State Catbacker Tour begins today in the western Kansas community of Dodge City, and won't end until six weeks later on June 30 in Independence, located in the southeastern corner of the state.
"It's our opportunity for our coaches and staff, plus our athletes, to get up close and personal with our fans around the state," said Lon Floyd, assistant athletic director/Catbacker Clubs. "It really is a fun time for all of us. No matter how tired you may be going into the event, the energy of the fans in the next community is very uplifting to our staff."
And, the journey is uplifting to K-State's bank account through localized auctions.
"It's become a little like our Powercat Auction in that our tour serves as a $150,000 fund raising effort," said Floyd. "But more than that, it's our social event with the K-State people. It provides a personal side to intercollegiate athletics.
"A lot of our fans only see our football players with helmets on and from a distance," said Floyd. "This tour helps bring them to life, and our student-athletes enjoy the opportunity to meet the fans."
To the efforts of Floyd, and so many others, K-State athletics director John Currie said, "We continue to emphasis Kansas State's real strengths. What makes our school so unique is that we have such a passionate and powerful grassroots support system that stretches across the state."
Currie remembered how shortly after his arrival in the summer of 2009 that he and Floyd covered an estimated 1,000 miles on Kansas highways over a three-day period.
"That was a great early education for me," said Currie, who had come from Tennessee. "It gave me a greater appreciation for our people and what they're all about. These are the leaders in their communities who carry the K-State flag."
K-State hits between 25 and 30 communities each spring with Catbacker events. Social gatherings, that Floyd says, "... are events organized by the individual communities. It's not organized by the athletic department. We just show up and it's already planned."
Initially, Currie said, "I expected some of these to be ho-hum events with 10 or 12 people. But with every single one of them you can feel the passion for K-State. When I tell people around the country how many of these events we have, they're blown away. Most universities have lost this type of grassroots support."
Currie marvels at the "tremendous volunteer" support that each Catbacker organization provides, but he is also appreciative of the support that the Wildcat coaches give these communities.
"Our coaches give a real commitment during the spring," said Currie. "They don't just show up, but they engage with the people and enjoy it. We have some late nights in the car and on the road, but each time we leave a Catbacker gathering there's a renewed energy that picks us all up."
Speaking of energy, that's exactly what K-State's athletic family better have during the next six weeks.
Beginning today in Dodge City, the Catbacker tour eases its way out of Manhattan with stops in Dodge City, Garden City, Scott City, Colby, Topeka, Concordia and Emporia before the end of the month.
In June, you ask?
Beginning on June 3 in Seneca, the Catbacker Tour will make 19 visits around the Sunflower State in a total of 24 days (not including Sundays).
"Last year we figured we traveled about 8,200 miles on the Catbacker Tour," said Floyd. "Most of those are trips where we leave Manhattan in the morning and pull back in late at night, and then start over the next morning.
"Most schools do caravans that take a couple days. They stop in cities for an hour or two, and then head out for the next one for an hour or two," said Floyd. "Our events start with golf at 9 in the morning and don't end until 10 at night."
In case you're curious, here's when the Wildcats will be in a community year you:
MAY: 16--Dodge City, 17 - Garden City, 18 - Scott City, 19 - Colby, 20 - Hays/Topeka; 25 - Concordia; 28 - Emporia
JUNE: 3 - Seneca, 4 - Great Bend, 7 - Salina, 8 - Winfield, 10 - Marysville, 11 - Junction City, 13 - Belleville, 14 - Atchison, 15 - Wichita, 16 - Kansas City, 18 - Ellsworth, 20 - Lawrence, 21 - McPherson/Hutchinson, 22 - Great Bend, 23 - Emporia/Kansas City, 24 - Wellington/Salina, 27 - Topeka, 29 - Manhattan, 30 - Independence
AUGUST: 11 - Lawrence, 13-14 - Colbert-Fogler Golf Tournament, 27 - Junction City
We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact either Mark Janssen or Kansas State Director of Athletic Communications/SID Kenny Lannou. For those who would like to share Sports Extra with a friend or family member, or change your current email address, click here.