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Big Ten travel full of twists and turns for league schools, Iowa (with charts)
Oct. 8, 2010 11:57 am
IOWA CITY - Iowa's football team once took chartered flights to every Big Ten location except Wisconsin on an annual basis.
Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz changed that after a difficult experience in a Chicago-area airport.
“Several years ago we did fly to Northwestern, and we had such a delay after the game getting back to the airport that Kirk just decided it would make more sense just to bus,” Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta said. “Because after the game by the time you get to the airport, you could be well on your way home.”
Iowa prefers a four-hour bus trip for its 70-member travel roster plus coaches, administrators and team personnel rather than chance the logistics of a flight to Chicago. The move also saves the athletics department around $50,000.
According to figures supplied by the athletics department, Iowa will spend more than $275,000 in football transportation this year, up by around $57,000 from last year. Some of those costs are reimbursed; Iowa received $200,000 from Arizona to help pay for travel costs, which included a $93,700 flight to Tucson. Some of it is discretionary, such as the Northwestern trip, which costs Iowa $6,000 for four buses.
“You have to weigh by the time you get to the airport, wait for the plane, board the plane, fly to the location ... when does it become counterproductive?” Barta asked. “So far with football we've decided that Northwestern and Wisconsin are the two that it just makes more sense to bus.”
The team has four regular-season flights this year - Arizona, Indiana ($57,750), Michigan ($59,200) and Minnesota ($59,250) - compared to just three last year. Iowa took buses to both Wisconsin and Iowa State last year.
Often geography dictates Iowa's transportation but, like with the Northwestern trip, others are based on logistics. Madison, Wis., is by far Iowa's closest Big Ten destination at 177 miles, according to www.mapquest.com. Evanston, Ill., is second at 229 miles, followed closely by Champaign, Ill., at 243 miles.
Iowa's football program won't play Illinois in a regular-season game until at least 2013, but the school usually flies to Champaign for football games. On paper, it appears 14 extra miles will cost around $50,000 in future transportation costs.
But traveling to Champaign is relatively simple, unlike the Chicago area. Likewise, Illinois flies into Eastern Iowa Airport when it travels to Iowa City.
“It's a large group, and it's just a traditional trip that we've flown to,” Barta said. “We've talked about if we ever get to a point where we have to cut that budget, certainly it's one that we'd take a look at. So far we haven't had to do that.”
Each Big Ten school determines its method of travel without direction from the league office, according to Scott Chipman, the Big Ten's associate commissioner for communications. For instance, Illinois flies to every location but Indiana (170 miles), Purdue (95 miles) and Northwestern (155 miles). Penn State flies everywhere.
“Ours is pretty easy. It's pretty cut and dry,” Zook said. “We don't have many games that are pretty far. We've got Indiana and Purdue and Northwestern that are all pretty close where it's not an issue. When you jump on the bus it's not a problem.”
Some schools mix their travel to and from games. Purdue drives buses to every current Big Ten site except Penn State and Minnesota but flies home from all but Illinois, Indiana and Northwestern.
“I have all the input in the world as far as how we travel,” Purdue Coach Danny Hope said. “There's some cost management issues, where we try to do the best that we can with the budget that we have. So sometimes we'll drive down and fly back. It depends on the time of the game.
“There's some method we use, and a lot of it has to do with common sense.”
Michigan State's travel varies each year. The Spartans have taken buses and flown to Purdue in the past and sometimes have used both methods of travel in a trip to Columbus, Ohio.
“You're looking for absolutes but there aren't any,” John Lewandowski, Michigan State's associate athletics director for communications, wrote in an e-mail.
That's also the case with Minnesota. Before 2009, the Gophers flew to every Big Ten location except Wisconsin. Last year, the Gophers chose to drive 300 miles to Iowa City to save money.
Iowa may do that someday in a budget crunch. But Barta, a Minnesota native, is hesitant to make that commitment.
“It's about a five-hour drive, and it's right on the edge of the limit of whether we'd bus or fly,” Barta said. “Every year we look at our budget and decide whether or not we can afford it and we're flying this year. Generally we've flown to Minnesota and if it ever becomes a budget situation where we have to cut that, we'll take a look at it.”
HOW THEY TRAVEL IN THE BIG TEN
- Iowa - Buses to Wisconsin, Northwestern; flies everywhere else
- Indiana - Buses to Illinois, Michigan, Northwestern, Purdue, Ohio State; flies to Iowa, Minnesota, Penn State and Wisconsin; buses to Michigan State and flies home (in 2007)
- Illinois - Buses to Purdue, Indiana, Northwestern; flies everywhere else
- Michigan - Buses to Michigan State and Ohio State; flies everywhere else (sometimes buses to Purdue and flies home)
- Michigan State - Buses to Michigan, Northwestern, Indiana; flies to Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Penn State, Wisconsin; sometimes buses or flies to Purdue, Ohio State
- Minnesota - Buses to Iowa, Wisconsin; flies everywhere else
- Northwestern - Buses to Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, Wisconsin; flies everywhere else
- Ohio State - Buses to Michigan, Indiana, Purdue (except for a night game); flies everywhere else
- Penn State - Flies everywhere
- Purdue - Buses to Indiana, Illinois, Northwestern; flies to Penn State and Minnesota; buses to and flies from: Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin
- Wisconsin - Buses to Iowa and Northwestern; flies everywhere else (sometimes buses to Minnesota and flies home)
Iowa regular-season football transportation costs in 2009
- Iowa State – bus -- $5,800
- Penn State – fly -- $75,025
- Wisconsin – bus -- $6,000
- Michigan State – fly -- $64,170
- Ohio State – fly -- $67,497
- Total: $218,492
Iowa regular-season football transportation costs in 2010
- Arizona – fly -- $93,700
- Michigan – fly -- $59,200
- Indiana – fly -- $57,750
- Northwestern – bus -- $6,000
- Minnesota – fly -- $59,250
- Total: $275,900