COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Take out a loan or even a second mortgage, forgo Christmas presents or split a hotel room.
Faced with the possibility of two big postseason trips under the new college football playoff system, some players’ parents are doing all they can to see their kids under the spotlight.
A bowl game trip can cost thousands of dollars. Although schools are permitted to reimburse families who need it for some costs out of a special assistance fund, some are questioning if it’s time to provide more help now that teams could play in two games in the postseason if they progress to the national championship.
Two games means two hotel rooms, two car trips, two sets of meals on the road. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer brought the issue up right after his team got a playoff berth.
“You know what my biggest thing (is)? What are we going to do with our players’ families?” he said. “People are all worried about the playoff and who’s going to play who. (But) how is that mom and dad or mom and uncle going to go see their kid play?”
For now, parents of players at Oregon, Florida State, Alabama and Ohio State are rushing to make plans — and split costs.
Cassandra Greene has missed just one of her son’s college games — and that was in 2011. That’s 50 and counting so she can follow senior receiver Rashad Greene, Florida State’s all-time leader in receiving yards and receptions.
A case manager for the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities who is also working on her Master’s degree, Greene said bowl trips typically cost her $700-$800. She already has hotel reservations in California and Texas, thanks to a relative who works in the industry, but the financials are a strain.
“With family support, I’m going,” Cassandra said. “It’s tough. You’ve got to sit down and make some logical decisions. You have to put some things that you really don’t need and some things that you don’t have to do, you have to put all that in perspective and say I’m going to the game.
“Some things I said I wanted for Christmas or some things that people were going to buy me for Christmas, I was like, ‘Don’t give me gifts. Contribute to me going to California.’ But, it’s worth it.”
The money coming into the conferences and schools involved in the new college playoff system is staggering: $50 million per big-five conference, $6 million for each school in the semifinals, $2 million per team for expenses.
NCAA rules do not currently allow players to be compensated — even though ESPN is reportedly paying $500 million this year to televise the CFP games.
In a sport where top coaches routinely make between $4 million and $7 million a year and get six-figure bonuses just for getting a team into the playoff, families have few advocates.
Under NCAA guidelines, schools can reimburse families for some travel costs. In the case of Ohio State and other major schools, a player’s family can receive up to $800 for postseason travel. But those guidelines were developed under a one-bowl postseason setup.
“The parents aren’t even allowed to share the experiences that the kids have — which are once-in-a-lifetime experiences,” said Guss Armstead, father of Oregon defensive lineman Arik Armstead. He said he is fortunate enough to be able to drive to his son’s game. “So there needs to be some way that the parents can get some assistance to get to some of their kid’s games.”
Alabama linebacker Trey DePriest will have his mother, Angie, grandmother, Sue, and his girlfriend at however many games the Tide has left. As always.
The three women will drive together from their home in Springfield, Ohio, to New Orleans and, if ‘Bama wins, will drive to Arlington, Texas, for the national championship game and will split a hotel room to watch DePriest play.
“It’s hard but we’re going to go,” said Angie DePriest, a phlebotomist at Springfield Regional Medical Center. “We haven’t missed a game since he’s been playing.”
The only time they’ve flown to a game was for the BCS championship against Notre Dame in south Florida two years ago. The others, they just hop in a car.
“The expense is a huge challenge but my mother, myself and Trey’s girlfriend split the cost so it makes it a little easier so it’s not just on one person,” she said.
Allowing a few days at the bowl city, a typical roundtrip flight from Gainesville, Florida, to Los Angeles would run between $950 and $1,200, with even distant hotels costing $200 a night with a car needed at around $100 a day. For parents of Ohio State players going to New Orleans, a roundtrip flight, hotels and car would likely cost $2,000 per person per trip.
Ohio State AD Gene Smith says he will push for more help for those needing it to see their sons participate.
“I am on record with the fact we need legislation to allow us to (fund) these trips,” he said.
But when the stadium lights shine on the players this year, there will be dozens of proud parents, siblings and grandparents in the stands, all who found some way — any way — to get there for that one shining moment.
“We have all those people who sat in that room and selected (teams),” Meyer said of the CFP committee. “I wonder if they have another room of people deciding to make sure that we treat the players the right way.”
AP Sports Writers Anne Peterson in Portland, Oregon, John Zenor in Birmingham, Alabama, and Kareem Copeland in Gainesville, Florida, contributed to this report.
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