Economics

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Parents Get a Ticket to Ride to Playoffs

7 Jan, 2015

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
NCAA Grants Waiver Allowing for Reimbursement of Family Members to See College Football Championship

In Ohio and Oregon, parents are getting a ticket to ride. And officials are nothing short of ecstatic about it.

It was announced Monday that the College Football Playoff will help pay for the parents and guardians of Ohio State and Oregon football players to travel to the national championship game in North Texas on Monday.

According to a Fox Sports article, the NCAA granted a waiver that allows the College Football Playoff to provide a reimbursement of up to $1,250 per parent or guardian that will cover hotel accommodations, travel and meals.

The NCAA also announced it will provide a similar reimbursement to the families of athletes who compete in the men's and women's basketball Final Fours as part of a pilot program.

The NCAA will pay up to $3,000 total in travel, hotel and meal expenses for family members of student-athletes who compete in the Final Four. The NCAA will pay up to $4,000 for each of the student-athletes who compete in championship games.

The men's Final Four will be held in Indianapolis this year. The women's Final Four will be held in Tampa, Florida.

The issue of creating a fund for family travel to games was a long time coming.

According to an article in the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith and the parents of Ohio State players had been leading a charge to help families attend the games. 

Fox News noted Mark Lewis, NCAA executive vice president of championships and alliances, had been investigating ways help parents and guardians of college athletes cover travel costs to the basketball championship since he joined the organization in 2012.

Lewis said a discussion with Smith prompted a review of the NCAA bylaws to try to find a way to help pay for family members to travel to playoff games.

"Does it help that people were saying, `Hey, quit taking so long. We want to do it?' Yeah, sure," Lewis said. "No question that the squeaky wheel gets the grease."

Lewis, who was investigating the legality of the issue, noted the NCAA rules stated that as long as the bill was being footed by the organizing body of the event and not schools, a waiver could be granted allowing for family members' travel expenses to be reimbursed.

The savings to parents is not inconsiderable. The Dayton Daily quoted Smith, who did quick math while being interviewed at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center on Tuesday, as saying he expects this to cost close to $250,000 per school. That’s if families are paying $300 per night for three nights for a hotel room and $800 for a flight.

Lewis noted that Smith and Rob Mullens, Oregon’s A.D., have said they will explore NCAA legislation that could expand on the pilot program and allow the schools to be involved.

"In the future, maybe we'll be able to manage this before time and we'll just pick a team hotel, they will hopefully have a travel agency they work with, so you work to get your flights through the travel agency, you stay at this hotel, everything's covered, so there's no money exchanged," Smith said.

Under NCAA guidelines, schools previously were permitted to use a student assistance fund for a one-time payment of $800 to help fund families' postseason travel. But that didn't come close to covering all of the expenses. Athletes’ families, who have been dealing with travel costs that only rose as their children have aged, (in 2011, the New York Times reported that the prior year, American families spent an estimated $7 billion traveling with their children to youth sports tournaments), finally can claim their own victory.

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