There’s no argument here. For almost everyone these are indeed rough economic times and cost-cutting measures should be and are being proposed and instigated at every turn.
And collegiate athletics are not, and surely should not be, immune.
But I wonder in some instances whether changes in policy that have been put in place in the name of difficult economic challenges are simply window dressing – a chance to point out that we did our part – and not penciled out for viability, let alone just plain good sense.
There’s a couple in the Big Sky Conference that have me scratching my head.
University presidents voted to institute this season a Friday-Saturday men’s basketball schedule to save a day’s per diem and an overnight stay in comparison to the previous Thursday-Saturday situation.
Of course, this does not apply to the Northern Colorado trip to Greeley combined with the Northern Arizona game because you can hardly make it between the two locations with no travel day in between, especially with the two-and-a-half hour bus trip to Flagstaff a team faces after it arrives at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix.
The problem is the schedule doesn’t pencil out equitably.
The league pays Altitude Sports to carry a “Game of the Week,” which traditionally airs on Sunday afternoon. But the teams that play on the road in those games can’t play Saturday-Sunday because there isn’t time to get to the next location.
Thus they have an additional travel day in between, eliminating any cost savings and giving the travel team an additional day of rest and game preparation.
Just one case in point: Montana State University had three Sunday games, leaving them with two days in between the Weber State and Idaho State game (because of the New Year holiday), a day off at home in between Portland State and Eastern Washington, and two days between Northern Colorado and Northern Arizona.
Is that just a schedule aberration or inequality?
The women’s side of the Big Sky Conference may be on to something, as in some cases their Saturday games are played in the afternoon allowing a team to catch a late flight to return home, saving a night’s lodging. That works fine if they are not charged a late checkout fee, which would come close to negating any savings.
The second scenario has to do with travel parties.
Teams no longer are allowed to fly to a league destination that is not 500 miles away.
The University of Montana Grizzlies always have, of course, bused to Bozeman, Eastern Washington and Idaho State. But Weber State is about 460 miles away and usually the team has flown to and from Salt Lake City, eliminating a late-night, early-morning bus ride over Monida Pass in the winter.
But the bigger concern is the size of the basketball travel party, which now has been reduced by conference rules to 17, including coaches and an athletic trainer. Radio personnel and administrators are not included in the total.
That means there is no room for redshirts, walk-ons, managers, a student trainer or anyone else on a bus that now is headed down the road less than half full.
In the past, bus trips have been used to reward those student-athletes who work their tail off contributing to the program, yet are forced to stay home at game time.
In the case of the recent Lady Griz trip to Bozeman, Head Coach Robin Selvig was faced with the dilemma of either leaving a player home and off the bus, or driving himself to the game and paying his own expenses. I’m sure you know which way he went on that one.
Listen up Big Sky Conference and school presidents: Mandate cost reductions if you are so required, or inspired for that matter, but leave it to each program to figure out how and what to cut.
One thing is for sure, you won’t have a head coach of marginal driving ability – hey I rode shotgun with him for eight years. I have a right – over mountain passes in the winter – to get to a game while a Beachliner rolls down the road half full.
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