As the Northern Kentucky University athletics department enters its third year of the required four year transition period into Division I, competition has increased and improved, and travel costs have gone up.
For the 2014-15 fiscal year, NKU will spend nearly $980,000 in travel expenses, said Senior Associate Athletic Director for Business and Finance Daniel McIver. That includes meals, travel costs, hotel and other expenses that may occur on an away game trip.
Personal items, however, such as souvenirs or snacks outside of a designated meal time, are on the student, not the athletic department.
The sport with the most money allotted for travel in its budget is men’s basketball, who is budgeted $165,000 for travel costs and expenses.
“This may go up a bit because we are playing out in eastern Washington and Idaho, flight costs are a little more expensive than we thought,” McIver said.
This season, the team will travel to the University of Wisconsin, Northwestern University, University of Nebraska, and University of Idaho in non-conference play.
Some schools though, such as Nebraska, pay NKU to play them as a home game. The Cornhuskers will pay close to $125,000 which will cover “much more than travel”
according to McIver.
McIver also stated that that’s comparable to what other Big-5 schools pay to smaller schools like NKU to play them in non-conference play.
How away games come about
The coaches of individual sports are responsible for their own scheduling of opponents, according to McIver. Once the sport supervisor signs off on the schedule before it is approved the game contract is then signed between NKU and the opposing school or schools.
After the finalization of the game, the coaches then work with AAA, NKU’s official travel agency, to arrange flights, or Travel America, the official bus service of NKU, to coordinate bus traveling.
Once the means of transportation is finalized, each team is responsible for finding its own hotel and restaurants, which are usually suggested by the opposing school, according to McIver.
Teams leave NKU a day before the scheduled game or match, along with any personnel involved with the team. For example, men’s basketball will take trainers, scorekeepers, media personnel, such as radio and/or T.V. on-air talent, communications members, team managers, and other people who may be needed for a specific trip, according to McIver.
After checking in at the hotel, many teams will go to the arena or field of the opposing school to practice and get a feel of the space in which they will be playing, McIver said.
Impact of traveling on player performance
Traveling can take its toll on the body, especially long road trips, according to McIver.
Last season, the men’s basketball team recorded a record of 2-14 away from The Bank of Kentucky Center, while they went 7-7 at home.
Men’s basketball Head Coach Dave Bezold believes that traveling does impact the physicality and performance of his team.
“Absolutely, when we leave for a conference game on Wednesday at 7 a.m., and come back on Sunday, you are tired, you are worn out,” Bezold said.
Bezold doesn’t use it as an excuse, however, but says that it just fact that “travel wears you down.”
Forward Jalen Billups, a junior electronic media and broadcasting major, agrees.
“At the end of the road trip, for sure, we are physically tired; our bodies are just worn out,” Billups said.
Traveling isn’t all that bad
While on road trips, Bezold and his staff try to make long road trips an educational trip as well.
“We’ve tried to hit museums whenever we can, if the schedule allows us to,” Bezold said. “We don’t want them sitting around the hotel the whole time.”
When the team goes to Idaho, it plans on visiting Glacier National Park, located in Montana, and a five hour drive from the University of Idaho, where the team will be playing.
In addition to the educational aspect of road trips, NKU has played against some of the top teams in college basketball and played in some of the top arenas in the country.
Since going Division I, NKU has played at Rupp Arena against the University of Kentucky, Dean Smith Center at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill and Mackey Arena at Purdue University.
The most exciting arena for Jalen Billups, however, is an arena NKU visits every year at Florida Gulf Coast University.
Billups cites the excitement and atmosphere at Alico Arena as the reason why FGCU is his favorite school to visit.
The Norse will begin their season on the road when they face Wisconsin on Nov. 14.