March 31, 2011
If Butler star Matt Howard's parents and nine siblings make it to Reliant Stadium to watch him make his second appearance in a Final Four on Saturday, it will be with an assist from the senior's hometown.
Residents of Connersville, Ind., have been raising money to help the family pay for tickets to the game, transportation to Houston and hotel accommodations. Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay tweeted Wednesday that he has also contributed to the Connersville fund after the NCAA struck down his initial plan to fly the family to Houston on a private jet and pay for tickets to the game for the family.
"We so appreciate the offers and generosity of everyone," Linda Howard, Matt's mother, told the Connersville News-Examiner. "But for us, it is paramount that Matt gets to play and that Butler gets to keep anything that it wins. We're not stepping over any boundaries.
"Everything that we have been offered we have checked out with the NCAA compliance office. We really don't want to take any chances."
Every donation is a huge help to Stan and Linda Howard, who raised 10 kids on Stan's salary as a mail carrier. Stan told the New York Times last week that he has taken only one sick day in 33 years, and that day he was sent home against his will.
Every player on a Final Four team receives four tickets to the games, so Howard will give his to his parents and sisters, Laura and Amanda. The rest of the family will rely on help from Connersville, a 13,000-resident town about 70 miles east of Indianapolis.
"We can only use that money for Final Four tournament expenses," Linda told the News-Express. "Anything left over, we have to return, so I guess we'll give it to (Mayor Leonard Urban) and he'll figure out what to do with it."