ELKHART — Elkhart might be located in the heart of Notre Dame country, but Purdue's top coaches have deep connections to the community.
"I've heard a lot about Elkhart," said head football coach Darrell Hazell, who coached at West Virginia with Elkhart Memorial assistant principal Frank Kurth in 2000. "(Kurth) talked a lot about Elkhart. He talked bout how good the people were in this town, how much they loved their football."
Hazell added to his Elkhart cred, calling Kurth's father, former Elkhart Central football coach Tom Kurth, "a legend here in town."
Hazell, men's basketball coach Matt Painter and a handful of other Purdue coaches trekked to Elkhart on Thursday, May 8, as part of the university's traveling Coaches Caravan. Hosted by the Purdue Club of Elkhart County at the Lerner Theatre, the coaches met with alumni and fans as part of a state-wide tour.
Women's basketball coach Sharon Versyp has even stronger ties to the area. Versyp is a Mishawaka High School graduate and was Indiana's Miss Basketball in 1984. Her father, Robert, worked for years at Elkhart Supply.
"I don't get to come back home much, but it brings back a lot of memories," she said. "Everyone around here really helped me be successful so it's nice to come back and thank them."
Volleyball coach Dave Shondell recruits heavily in the area, nodding specifically to the Central, Memorial and Concord programs. Penn graduate Annie Drews plays for the Boilermakers, and Central's Azariah Stahl will be part of the 2014 team.
Shondell said Northern Indiana was the "first great area for volleyball" back when the sport was taking off at the high school level.
"This is a great area for high school volleyball," he said. "They take it very seriously up here."
The Purdue Coaches Caravan's next stop is in Merrillville on Thursday, May 15.