Tough times for team travel
October 21, 2008
If the South Summit football team wins their playoff game this Friday against Richfield at home they get an interesting reward – a seven-hour bus trip to southern Utah to play San Juan.
That’s not really much of a gift when your South Summit athletic director Troy Coil, who has been trying to keep travel costs down as the United States economy continues to struggle and gas prices remain high. A trip to San Juan means lots of driving plus an overnight stay for the large team and it’s a problem that won’t go away. Thanks to the new high school region realignment that will take place next year, San Juan is now part of their region for football and both North and South Summit will have to make that long trip every other year.
It’s particularly frustrating for Coil, who has been vigilant in his efforts to make cost cuts wherever he can. The football team is now crammed into one bus instead of two and the equipment rides in a trailer hooked up to a more fuel-efficient school-owned Suburban.
Coil tries to cut down the use of diesel fuel, i.e. buses, whenever possible.
Any team with nine players or less must take the Suburban to their events. That last rule hit close to home for Coil, who coaches the golf team and carted them all over the place in the sports utility vehicle this fall.
"We got to know each other really well," he laughed. "Luckily, we’re a skinny team."
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He has also been worried about a recommendation that area superintendents have toseed around that would ask all schools to reduce their overall travel spending on athletics by 20 percent. That’s not a big deal for a large 5A school in Salt Lake playing teams just a few city blocks away, but cuts like that could really make things difficult for more remote schools.
North Summit athletic director Brett Richins also has his concerns. Although his teams haven’t made any significant cutbacks thus far, he worries about the future — especially the long trips down south. He marvels that in football, North and South Summit were grouped with two southern schools, Grand in Moab and San Juan, rather than closer 2A schools in the north.
"I would love someone to explain that reasoning to me," Richins said. "It just makes no sense."
And the teams always have to travel at least an hour just to play schools their size.
"In 2A, it’s tough," he said.
It seems it doesn’t get much better in 3A. according to Park City athletic director Doug Payne. There haven’t been any cuts this year, but he is interested to see what changes the school board will make in light of next year’s realignment which will put Park City in a region that includes the usual long bus-trip schools, Union and Uintah and adds Carbon High in Price – another long drive.
Schools aren’t the only ones who keep a tight fist on their budgets. The U.S. Ski Team has always tried to keep a close eye on their travel costs with repeated trips to compete abroad.
According to the team’s director of communication, Tom Kelly, the focus these days is on equipment. With athletes needing bags and bags of equipment, traveling to Europe all winter can be tricky. Now with the new baggage regulations, things have gotten even more interesting. Luckily, the team made a switch with airline partners to Delta, which has made some agreements with them on baggage. Also, with Salt Lake being a hub for Delta there are far more flights at better rates available to local athletes.
"It’s been a very positive change," Kelly said.
Still traveling with that much baggage is costly. Kelly said that at least airline costs haven’t risen, which sort balances things out.
Once the teams touches ground on the other side of the pond, there are more travel costs to consider, including fuel costs, which have always been high in Europe, and renting trailers to cart all of the equipment around.
"Its something we manage as part of our budget," Kelly said.
The Ski Team’s financial department has always done plenty of forecasting of the economy and then made specific decisions regarding the organization’s budget based on those projected numbers.
"It’s good prudent business as usual," Kelly said.
Another concern, besides travel is the fluctuating value of the dollar versus the Euro, which means the organization’s money just isn’t going as far as it used to.
"It’s a tough hit for us," Kelly said.
Of course the team has no control over that.
"We can manage travel costs," he said. "That’s something we can control."