No more Bogey Busters.
Purdue's coaches wanted to be able to reach out to as many supporters as possible, and having golf events can limit that exposure.
So the school switched to a "coaches caravan" this summer. The third stop on the six-city tour was Thursday in Fort Wayne.
Football coach Danny Hope, men's basketball coach Matt Painter, women's basketball coach Sharon Versyp and volleyball coach Dave Shondell joined athletic director Morgan Burke at the Baker Street train station.
About 225 Purdue alumni and fans -- from youngsters to seniors -- packed the place to have a tailgate-style meal, get autographs and participate in a Q&A session with Burke and the coaches.
Burke estimated the caravan and Painter's alumni event in South Bend brought about 1,000 fans in 30 days, and Burke estimates the group will see that many more the rest of the summer.
"If I'm going to ask people to invest in these programs, they have to see us," Burke said. "You do the golf events, they're nice. But it's the same 50, 60, 70, 80 people and that's not going to get people out there."
Hope did his own "barnstorming tour" last summer before his first season as head football coach. So he knows the drill -- and appreciates Fort Wayne's support.
"Great turnout," said Hope, who had to literally be pulled away from signing autographed to chat with me. "This is exciting. People are coming to see all the coaches that represent the revenue sports, if you will. We've had a great turnout and a great response everywhere we've gone. Again, it's another great opportunity to rally up the troops and get out there and connect with the Boilermaker nation and answer their questions they have.
"It's gone very well, and this turnout is exceptional."
Most of the coaches arrived in town for a noon luncheon with "generous donors," Burke said. Burke and Hope then made three sales calls in the afternoon, Burke said.
That bouncing around town had Burke and Hope arrive about 30 minutes late for the scheduled 5:30 p.m. autograph session.
But it's the evening part that the coaches really enjoy because it allows them to talk to fans in a more intimate setting.
"I think it's more important for us to get out and talk to the people of Fort Wayne who have supported us and make sure they understand that we appreciate what they do for us," Painter said.
Said Versyp: "Turnouts have been fantastic. Everybody has enjoyed it a lot. Us coaches have enjoyed it, especially in the evenings. There are so many people who have given us support and we can actually thank people and reach out. I think it's more personal for every person."
For the coaches, the caravan also is a unique opportunity to spend some time together. Though the group didn't all arrive in Fort Wayne together, they hopped a plane back to West Lafayette Thursday night.
"It's good to spend time with other coaches," Painter said. "At Purdue, I think we have a good group of coaches that care about our institution so any time you can get out and get away, it's good to talk."
Versyp said besides these six caravan events, the John Purdue Club weekend and head coaches' meetings, "we don't ever see each other a lot."
"It's great because you still learn from each other. That's part of our recruitment is selling other programs," she said.
- Got tons of stuff from the three coaches and Burke, so stay tuned for plenty more in the blog and print editions in the coming weeks.