Planning travel for college basketball teams can be complicated. Flights and hotels have to be booked, buses rented, meals planned. Schedules have to be worked around practices and games.
Planning amid the Covid-19 pandemic makes it exponentially more difficult.
Coaches and administrators have to consider ventilation systems, vendor testing protocols, shifting state requirements, airport policies, bus layouts and meal service options.
“You’re trying to balance logistics, but you also trying to balance a budget and health and safety in a pandemic,” Arkansas director of basketball operations Anthony Ruta said. “It’s not always easy.”
The NCAA set the college basketball start date for November 25. When the announcement was made in mid-September, coaches began scrambling to fill out schedules. With the start of the season 10 days away, some of those schedules still aren’t finalized.
Within that scramble was another, more complex one.
It’s one thing to have a schedule set, another to wade through the minutiae to make it work.
The pandemic has put a huge financial strain on athletic departments, sending many millions of dollars in the red. Staying within a travel budget has become even more important.
The preferred method of pandemic travel would be to take a charter flight for the social distancing aspect, but smaller schools don’t have the finances to do that, even under regular circumstances. The financial hit of the pandemic shrinks the charter pool even more.