Judging by the crowd that showed up at The Pub on Tuesday, the Evansville area is no longer the place Purdue fans go to hide.
The Boilermaker Coaches Caravan had Purdue fans streaming through the banquet room doors at The Pub. One estimate had the crowd at more than 200 fans, but only 175 paid to eat lunch and hear new football coach Darrell Hazell and basketball coach Matt Painter, according to local booster club president Amy Bouchie.
The more the merrier as far as Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke was concerned.
“This isn’t a fund-raiser, it’s a friend-raiser,” said Burke.
It’s one reason he said Purdue no longer does many golf outings to promote its athletic programs. Golf scrambles tend to be on the more expensive end of things and Burke said he prefers to keep the price low to encourage more fans to come out If they bring their familes, all the better.
“Events like this will get you a much broader cross-section of people,” Burke said. “We’ve moved away from the golf events. Matt doens’t play and Darrell doesn’t play. Dave Shondell (volleyball) and (women’s basketball coach) Sharon (Versyp) will play and I’ll whack it around, but these kind of events are better for more fans.”
It also allows the coaches in most instances to squeeze in a stop a school or community center to work with kids. On Tuesday, the Caravan made its way to the Boys & Girls Club of Evansville to sign autographs and chat with the kids before getting back on the plane to fly to Louisville for another Caravan stop.
“A lot of these kids may never meet a big-time coach,” said Burke. “They get excited. They see Matt Painter and maybe he can show them how to shoot free throws.”
The Caravan makes yearly trips to Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, Lake County and Chicago and then selects two or three other places to visit, according to Burke. This year Evansville made the list for the first time along with Muncie and Jeffersonville.
It was the first time Evansville has been on the Caravan tour map, but judging from the interest Burke promises this part of the state won’t be forgotten any time soon.
It shouldn’t. A week earlier the IU Tailgate Tour was in town for what has become an annual golf outing in Evansville. It drew a smaller crowd for the luncheon at Oak Meadow Country Club.
No doubt that had a lot to do with the fact that Evansville didn’t get any of IU’s headliners. Basketball coach Tom Crean, football coach Kevin Wilson and athletic director Fred Glass each bypassed Evansville this time because of various conflicts. And possibly because the event was cancelled for more than a month after the ownership squabble at what was formerly The Oaks.
Instead, assistant basketball coach Steve McClain, assistant football coach Doug Mallory and men’s soccer coach Todd Yeagley each spoke to the local Hoosier faithful. All of the coaches and Voice of the Hoosiers Don Fischer were entertaining, but there was still a noticeable lack of buzz the event has had in the past.
Still, the area IU Alumni Club uses the golf outing primarily as a fundraiser for scholarships. A reported $11,000 went to the scholarship fund this year.
Like most of Purdue’s coaches, Crean and Wilson don’t have time to play golf, either. As a result, the local IU boosters might should consider doing a separate golf outing and then bringing in the coaches for a luncehon or dinner.