Dr. Curt Harris has an annual fall tradition.

He rents a car.

No, there is nothing wrong with the vehicles that the Franklin chiropractor and his wife, Judy, own.

It’s just that Curt Harris wants to keep them that way. The Harrises will drive 3,500 miles in just four weeks following their children, Whiteland grads Luke, Jess, Aaron and Michaela, at football and basketball games hours away.

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“Judy goes to one, and I go to another,” Harris said of the couple’s schedule as they try to squeeze in their sons’ football games at two schools and their daughter’s basketball contests at a third. “I usually go to the one that is farthest away. It is tough for us to split up that way.

“With girls basketball starting, it gets really busy.”

Such is the life of parents supporting their children in college athletics. For them, every contest is an

away game.

Another weekend, another road trip. And maybe more than one.

On the road again

A recent 10-day swing in the Harris schedule saw trips to Youngstown, Ohio; Fort Wayne; Grayson, Kentucky; Huntington; Macomb, Illinois; back to Huntington; and New Albany.

Senior Jess is a linebacker at Indiana State in Terre Haute, where brother Luke is a graduate assistant. Sophomore Aaron is a tailback at St. Francis in Fort Wayne. Aaron’s twin sister, Michaela, is a forward on

the IU-Southeast (New Albany) basketball team.

Their parents make it a point to

not miss any game, even at this

time of year when football and basketball overlap.

After that much time behind the wheel, the chiropractor is going to need a chiropractor.

Dave and Angie Toner know the feeling. Their son, Cole, plays tackle for Harvard, which is a 16-hour drive from the Toners’ Greenwood home.

The couple tried that exhausting drive a few times, but a pressing schedule at Roncalli — Dave is athletics director, and Angie is a math teacher — made airline travel a necessity.

“We can’t wait for the weekends,” Angie Toner said. “They can’t get here fast enough. Everything then happens during the week, and we’re exhausted. It is very hectic, but it is very rewarding as well. We’re having the times of our lives.”

For Dave Toner, that can be complicated. Last Friday, the Rebels hosted a football regional Friday night, with Toner directing the logistics as athletics director. He

and Angie left early Saturday for

the Harvard at Penn game, walking into the stadium just in time for

the kickoff.

“It’s like a big puzzle trying to fit the pieces together,” Dave Toner said. “When the football schedule comes out in February, we look at flights out of Indianapolis, Louisville, Cincinnati, Dayton and Chicago. We are also trying to find the fares and times

that work.”

Airline travel, though, has its own complications. Earlier this year, the Toners were flying out of O’Hare in Chicago when an air traffic controller sabotaged the flight control network and shut down much of the airport for hours. They were still able to make it out in time for kickoff.

The younger Toner knows that it is not always easy to make the trip.

“It’s a sacrifice for them for sure,” said Cole Toner, a fixture at right tackle for the undefeated Crimson, who can win the Ivy League title outright today with a win against rival Yale. “I know they love to do it, too. It’s been so good having them for each game so far.”

Closer to home

Kyle Stoner is grateful that son Nick, a 2011 Center Grove grad, chose to play football and run track at IU. It’s still a 45-minute road trip for home games, but the Stoners have a much easier weekend routine than some other football parents.

“It’s a commitment, but certainly an enjoyable one,” he said. “It’s so nice that he selected IU.”

No matter the locale, the Stoners say they would not miss being there.

“We wanted to make sure that we were there to support him,” Kyle Stoner said. “At the end of each game, you can see players looking up in the stands to see their parents. He knows we were there to support him. It’s a big moment to see him after

the game.”

This week will be special for the Toners and Harvard. ESPN’s College Game Day telecast will air from 9 a.m. to noon, and Dave and Angie plan to be in the crowd. The Harvard-Yale game is a special annual rivalry, with notable alums and lavish tailgate parties adding to festivities.

The Crimson are one of only four undefeated teams in Division I (along with Florida State, Marshall and Coastal Carolina).

“They’ll come up Friday, so we’ll get to have dinner and maybe go to church Sunday,” Cole Toner said.

As far as being there each Saturday, there never really was a question.

“I don’t know that we really even thought about it,” Dave Toner said. “I just thought in my mind, ‘Why not?’ It’s an expensive affair, but we know how quickly the time goes by. Whether he played or not, we wanted to take advantage. It’s worked out very well because he has played quite a bit.”


These families are far from being the only Johnson County road warriors. Center Grove alone has 131 graduates currently playing college sports, and many of their families make similar trips.

No data is compiled on just how much time, effort and cash go into family support of their college athletes. However, CNBC estimates that domestic travel to youth athletics events before high school alone generates $7 billion annually.

The Stoners have friends who purchased an RV and use it for

home games.

“We use it to entertain friends and family at the games,” Kyle Stoner said. “It’s like a mini-vacation

each Saturday.”

The RV also made road trips to Michigan, although the family usually drives to other venues.

Although the Big Ten campuses are often close, IU’s schedule took the family to Gillette Stadium for the Hoosiers’ game against UMass. The game was less memorable than the trip home, when Kyle recalls a driving rainstorm that provoked hundreds of frogs to hop across the highway.

“Certainly being able to see Nick play and see his development from defensive back to receiver is special,” Kyle Stoner said. “There are a lot of memories, not just with Nick, but with other parents and boys.”

The proximity to Bloomington

has made the Stoner home a convenient locale to host many of Nick’s friends and teammates for offseason time away.

“It’s not like high school because you don’t know those kids growing

up, so you really get to know them,” he said.

The Hoosiers play at Ohio State today, where Stoner and former Trojan teammate Joel Hale will both line up on offense.

Even this far into the season, there is still time for thinking on the fly.

“If ISU wins this weekend, then they will have a playoff game, which we will fit in somehow with basketball,” Curt Harris said.

Staying home is not an option.

“We just have committed to do that (going to each game),” he said. “During football season, we just go in different directions. We’ve got plenty to see.”

Curt Harris also spends Friday nights on the Whiteland sideline offering medical support.

All the families credit athletics with giving them and their children tremendous opportunities and lessons.

Nervous week

“We’ve been fortunate in that they have been blessed with success,” Curt Harris said. “I believe that the discipline and teamwork from athletics will help them later in life.”

But first there is a matter of this weekend, with Indiana State battling at Western Illinois (2 p.m. ESPN3), the Harris family will be there in their rental car and hoping to celebrate a playoff berth with a win.

Meanwhile, a thousand miles east

in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Toners are ready for a Harvard Ivy League title.

“By Wednesday, I’m nervous, especially this week,” Angie Toner said. “The game will be on national TV, and ‘Gameday’ will be there.”

That leads to a more pressing question. If analyst Lee Corso picks the Crimson, how will he fulfill his practice of putting on a mascot head to display his choice?

“It would be so easy to put on a Bulldog head, but Harvard has

no mascot,” Angie Toner said,

mulling over the possibilities like a math teacher searching to solve a particularly challenging equation. “Maybe he will put on some sort of academic robe.

“He’s just got to pick us.”

At a glance

Ten days with the Harris family:

Friday;Dad to Youngstown, Ohio

Saturday;Mom to Fort Wayne

Tuesday;Both to Grayson, Kentucky

Friday;Both to Huntington

Saturday;Both to Western Illinois (Macomb, Illinois)

Sunday;Both to Huntington

Tuesday;Both to New Albany

Author photo
Bob Johnson is a sports correspondent for the Daily Journal.