Fundraising dinner, silent auction draws big names

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Coach Frank Martin took command of the room.

“Most Catbackers events are about getting people to know me and my family, but this event is different,” said Martin, men’s basketball head coach. “Here, this is comfortable, this is home. So we can talk about the real stuff.”

This was the final Manhattan Catbackers event of the summer, held on June 29. Joining Martin were Bill Snyder, football head coach, Wyatt Thompson, the voice of the Wildcats, and Mike Clark, director of development for K-State athletics.

About 250 Catbackers came out to hear these distinguished guests at the K-State Alumni Center and participate in a silent auction on June 29.

All donations and auction profits from the evening went into the Ahearn Fund. Last year, the event raised $15,000 for K-State athletics.

The Catbackers are an alumni club that supports K-State Athletics and contributes to scholarships for student athletes through the Ahearn Fund.

“If you are watching a game and see Jacob Pullen sink a 3-point bucket and you’re an Ahearn member, thank you. You made a difference for that kid,” Clark said.

While ticket sales are a big part of revenue for the athletics department, Ahearn member club fees and the generosity of the Catbackers help not only the students, but the university as a whole.

“The coaches and professors are all mentors for these athletes and these kids are impacted both on the court and in the classroom,” Clark said.

Clark said he wants to see another 700 members in Riley County Catbackers Club by next year, which will increase alumni membership from 3 percent to 10 percent.

Thompson said the support of the Catbackers paid off last year.

“Kansas State had more than 200 student athletes on the honor roll last year … we boasted two national champions in track and field … the baseball team emerged as the regional champions … girls’ tennis had a record-breaking year,” Thompson said.

To top it all off, the Wildcats went 13-1 in all sports against the rival Jayhawks.

Coach Snyder talked about the importance of caring and how powerful it can be.

“It really is about people caring about people; that is what K-State is to me,” he said.

Coach Martin said attitude is everything and that he was proud of the team’s effort.

“It was an exceptional season,” Martin said. “I don’t pay attention to our record, but I know we were losing more often than we needed to. Heck, I’m miserable after a win.”

The audience chuckled with Martin as he showed his softer side. He beamed while directing the Catbackers’ attention to his children, who were having their own picnic on the floor of the Alumni Center. He also sang a line from the Black Eyed Peas song “I Gotta Feeling.”

Martin discussed his pride in the team this year, impressed by their ability to adapt in the heat of competition.

“I don’t worry about practices, I worry about what happens outside of our complexes,” Martin said. “When your best two scorers get taken off your team because of off-court conduct, you have to change how you do things.”

Martin recalled that after a loss one night in the coach’s locker room, he told his staff to “keep those kids’ spirits high. If we keep doing what we did tonight, we’ll be OK.”

After the defeat in Boulder, Martin walked onto the court for Sunday practice before the game against KU and saw that the players’ “spirits were off the charts.”

“It was our best practice of the year,” Martin said. “The next night from jump ball to the final buzzer, it was clear who the better team was that night.”

At the NCAA tournament, Martin said he never counted K-State to be down and out.

“It didn’t work out, that’s all,” he said.

Near the end of the night, Coach Martin’s voice was auctioned off. Lance White of Wamego spent $1,000 to have Frank Martin record a voice message on his cell phone.

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