HAYS, Kan – Purple pride is intact – even in a western Kansas town two-and-a-half hours from Manhattan.
About 300 K-State fans gathered Thursday, July 13, in Hays, Kan., to celebrate the official beginning of the Heartland Catbackers club.
In addition to loyal fans, former football coach Bill Snyder and several student athletes were present. “It’s kind of nice to have all the people from western Kansas support K-State athletics: football, basketball, rowing team, equestrian – all that stuff,” said Kyle Younger, thrower for the K-State track team.
Catbackers is a committee with different branches all across Kansas, and one in Nebraska, that helps raise funds for K-State athletics. The organizations organize multiple fundraisers each year and the proceeds benefit the Mike Ahearn Scholarship Fund.
The Mike Ahearn fund provides $5.5 million to K-State each year for student athletic scholarships. Of the $5.5 million, about $250,000 is generated through Catbackers, Lon Floyd, assistant athletic director, said.
“The neat thing about Catbackers is we try very hard to make it fit the community, to make it fit into the area that we’re going in to,” Floyd said. “We want the people there to enjoy it and have fun, and yet still be able to raise some funds.”
At each Catbackers event, at least one K-State coach makes an appearance, which helps a great deal with recruiting efforts, he said.
“They’re the reason why, in my opinion, why kids come to Kansas State University from an athletic standpoint – we’re not talking from an academic standpoint,” Floyd said. “They like to go with people who know how to win, people who care about them as people, and I think Bill Snyder is the epitome of that.”
About 30 Catbacker groups already exist and K-State officials are reluctant to add more, Floyd said.
“We have tried to hold it pretty constant from the standpoint that we want to be able to provide service for those clubs,” he said. “If we get many more, we can’t provide that service.”
Hays is the 29th town Catbacker representatives have visited this summer, and every single event has set record attendance, he said.
“I think it’s the anticipation of the new coaches – everyone wanting to see the new coaches, the anticipation of the new era at K-State, the turnover,” Floyd said. “Everyone is excited about getting back in the win column.”
However, it is not only the excitement of meeting new coaches that attracts a large crowd, Floyd said.
“I think it was the combination of it being new and getting to see Coach Snyder was the reason for the tremendous turnout,” Floyd said of Thursday’s event. “Everybody loves having him come … he will always be a K-State legend, I think.”
Snyder will be a great resource person for football coach Ron Prince, and has indicated that as his role, if Prince wants it to be, Floyd said.
“He is a very knowledgeable resource person,” he said. “Prince is very pleased to have him around and to seek advice from him.”