Williams

A House Sometimes Divided

By Rachel Stern

DETROIT—Chris Williams had her wardrobe change down to a science.

She started the day in all Purdue attire. Purdue shirt, Purdue hat, decked out in black and gold. She cheered for the Boilermakers in the stands at Little Caesars Arena Friday as they beat Cal State Fullerton in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.But when the buzzer sounded, it was time for the change.

See, Chris is a Purdue graduate. And a proud one at that. But she married Mike, a Butler graduate. A proud, Butler basketball season-ticket-holding-since-1990 graduate, at that. And ever since, there have been, well, some hiccups. Like Friday, and Sunday, and the time their kids were deciding where to go to school, and the Crossroads Classic, and, and, and.

“We went to all the football and basketball games when I was at Purdue, and I am still a huge fan,” Chris says. “When I met my husband, I definitely became a Butler fan quickly. Pretty soon, I was going to tons of Butler sporting events and, even though I never stopped rooting for Purdue, I found a special place for Butler.”

On Friday, at least, there was an easy remedy. Chris was prepared. She dug into her purse after the Purdue game, reached for her stash of Butler gear, and changed before the Bulldogs tipped off against Arkansas in their first round matchup. Sunday, well let’s just say Sunday will be a bit less convenient. Butler will face Purdue for a birth in the Sweet 16. A wardrobe change won’t cut it. “Sunday will definitely be hard for me. It is always hard when both teams play each other,” Chris says. “I will probably wear a Butler hat and a Purdue quarter zip…”

Then Mike interjects.

“I remember, specifically, by the end of one Crossroads Classic game you were rooting for Butler,” Mike says. “The kids were like wow, you went to Purdue, but you are rooting for Butler. I definitely remember that time specifically.” Mike grew up in the Broad Ripple area, in, wait for it, a Notre Dame family. But, being so close to Butler, he attended a fair share of Bulldog basketball and football games growing up. When it was time for him to make his college decision, Mike knew he wanted to play golf and Butler, he says, was a perfect match.

Chris, on the other hand, grew up in Buckeye Country, eating and breathing Ohio State football in Lima, Ohio. She was all set to attend Ohio State, but at the last minute, switched to Purdue to study pharmacy. The two met in 1989 in Indianapolis and then married in December 1993. A lot of Butler athletic events followed. “I still followed Purdue closely, but just because of proximity and having season tickets, Butler was much more on my radar after we got married,” Chris says.  

Then they had their first child, Nick. “We took him to Hinkle a couple weeks after he was born. He always felt like Hinkle was home and the campus was comfortable to him,” Mike says. And it must have stuck. Nick is now a freshman at Butler and a member of the golf team. So, it is clear where his allegiance lies. Mike and Nick were texting during the Butler-Alabama game. Nick was trilled after the win, Mike says.

But then, there is their younger daughter, Claire. A junior in high school, she is starting to weigh her college options. “Every kid is different. She is just trying to figure out what place feels right for her and what will be the best fit. We will be taking some visits soon, but we are definitely hoping she likes Purdue or Butler,” Chris says. “Hopefully Butler,” Mike adds.

Claire wanted to be in Detroit, and is certainly rooting for Butler, Mike says, but she is away at a leadership retreat. The retreat doesn’t allow cellphones, but Claire has her priorities and was following the Butler game closely on her phone Thursday. She will do the same Sunday, secretly keeping an eye on the action. “She’s a good Butler fan,” Mike says.

The Williams', though a house sometimes divided, were excited on Selection Sunday when they saw the potential Butler-Purdue matchup in Detroit. At least they could travel to Detroit, see both teams play in the first round, and then watch a potential second round clash. Things are still tough for Chris when Purdue and Butler face off, she says. She still feels divided, even more so now that her son goes to Butler and is having such a great experience. She has taken to the Bulldogs even more now, with a vested interest at the school. There is one thing, though, that is easy for the Williams’ to agree on when it comes to college hoops.

“We both aren’t IU fans, that’s a no brainer,” Mike says. “And no matter what happens Sunday, we want the Indiana team that wins to keep going. But it better be Butler.”