K-State Sports Extra: On the Road Again

by Mark Janssen

MANHATTAN, Kan. - The state of Kansas is known for its trails - Santa Fe, Pony Express, Cherokee, Smokey Hill and Chisholm - but none of those match the journey of what's called the K-State Catbacker Summer Tour.

It's a path that starts today in Dodge City with a golf tournament and banquet, and continues Tuesday in Garden City, Wednesday on north to Scott City, followed by stops in Colby and Hays to complete the first week. A pair of August stops - Lawrence and Junction City - will conclude this year's Catbacker Tour.

"We make 33 stops during the course of the summer and I would guess we would travel 7,000 to 7,500 miles," said K-State assistant athletic director Lon Floyd. "Except for the western Kansas swing this week, all of the trips are out and back in the same day. We get home at 12:30 or 1:00 in the morning, and say, 'See you in about six hours,' and we're off again."

And when Floyd says "off again," he means it.

Check out this schedule for June: Seneca, Great Bend, Salina, Winfield, Marysville, Junction City, Belleville, Iola, Wichita, Kansas City, Atchison, Ellsworth, Lawrence, McPherson, Hutchinson, Manhattan, Emporia, Wellington and Topeka.

Whew!

"It does get long, but with each stop you see the enthusiasm for K-State and that pumps you back up again," said Floyd, who said some events have golf tournaments, some have banquets, and some have both. "This tour is successful because of the efforts of our people across Kansas."

Former athletic director Ernie Barrett started the tour in the late-1950s, which makes the event a 50-plus year success story.

"It's important for two reasons," said Floyd. "First, the personal one-on-one contact between our support groups and loyal K-State families, with our coaches and student-athletes. There's time before and after each event for our coaches and athletes to mix and mingle with our fans, which is enjoyed by both parties."

The second reason is fundraising as Floyd expects that this year's tour will generate at least $200,000 for the Ahearn Fund through registrations, raffles and auctions.

Coaches Bill Snyder, Frank Martin and Deb Patterson make the majority of the trips, with other coaches filling in when possible.

Also serving as KSU ambassadors are the football captains, plus members of the men's and women's basketball teams.

"Emmanuel Lamur is going to Seneca and he told me it will be the first time he has ever touched a golf club," Floyd said. "I promised him to go out the night before and I would hit a bucket of balls with him. Emmanuel has never swung a golf club before, so that could be interesting."

Floyd added, "The kids have a good time and it's a growing experience, whether it's playing golf for the first time, or speaking in front of a crowd."

Floyd said that gatherings will range from 100 to over 1,000 for the Topeka event.

"Each club does all the organizing and adds their own little twist," said Floyd. "These volunteers are the key to the success of the tour. They work hours and hours and are always trying to inject new ideas."

Floyd, who says K-State has 28 Catbacker Clubs, which includes Nebraskans for K-State in Lincoln, indicated that other universities have tried to copy the K-State format, but without success.

"Texas has six or seven stops, but the school puts them on," said Floyd. "With ours, the credit goes to our fans and our Catbacker organizations, but also to our coaches and student-athletes who make it a point to give back to the people, who give so generously to our program."

Top auction items at each event this year are a trio of basketball prints: Frank Martin being interviewed on College GameDay, a print of Jacob Pullen, Denis Clemente and Martin; and, Pullen, plus three teammates, wearing the fake Pullen-beard.

At the recent Powercat Auction last month, K-State grossed $350,000 for the Ahearn Fund, which goes to student-athlete scholarships, plus multiple other areas that enhance the experience of the Wildcat athlete.

Among the items sold were a Cuban dinner prepared by Frank Martin that went for $17,500 (three times); a framed Elite Eight Jersey from Nike including the team autographs on the matting for $13,500; a replica Model A for $16,000; a fishing trip to Brazil for $8,000; a bus trip to the Missouri football game for 48 people for $7,500; and, a trip for two with the KSU basketball game in Colorado for $7,250.