Ohio State notebook | Urban Meyer, Mark Dantonio: Fund playoff travel for players’ families

By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
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CHICAGO — If Ohio State has a dream season, it could be a nightmare scenario — financially — for many players’ families, coach Urban Meyer said, and he wants that addressed.

“Doesn’t it have to?” Meyer asked rhetorically yesterday as he held court with the media before the annual Big Ten kickoff luncheon.

In that dream season, Ohio State would win the Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis on Dec. 6. Then, it would play in a College Football Playoff semifinal, probably at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 1. The championship game will be at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Jan. 12.

For the families of players, however, that would be three major trips in roughly a month, featuring airline tickets bought at the last moment, which are seldom bargains; hotel rooms reserved somewhere near the festivities, which are seldom cheap; and, of course, paying for ground transportation and meals.

“Those are three trips in a month that would set people back a small fortune,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said.

With the millions being generated by the new playoff system, Meyer wants to see such costs covered for at least the parents of the players.

“And do it the right way? A very small percent … without a significant (financial) hit,” Meyer said.

Many families of administrators, assistant coaches and support personnel already make the trips with expenses paid, “which is the right thing to do,” Meyer said. But, he said, “I look at our players, and (some of their families) may drive in the day of the game, and they watch the game, then they go home. ‘How was your bowl experience?’ ”

Dantonio agreed. Families of his players last year dealt with the expense of travel to the Big Ten championship game, where the Spartans defeated the Buckeyes, and then to the Rose Bowl, where they defeated Stanford.

“I don’t know about the dollars and cents of it all, but anything that enhances the student-athlete’s and their family’s experience is a positive,” Dantonio said. “So if you can do it, I’d be in for doing it. It would have to be organized and family — that’s one little word, but they can be a lot of people.”

He smiled, but added, “I would vote for it. Because it’s expensive. Families to go to the Rose Bowl, think of the expense of that. A lot of people can’t afford that.”

Perhaps that will be part of the agenda of reforms as major colleges seek more autonomy from NCAA rules in the coming month.

“If you have people thinking about student-athlete first … above all that other stuff, finances, and ‘Boy, what a windfall for the university’ … it might have been already discussed,” Meyer said. “I’m hoping it has been.” But if so, “I’ve never been invited to those meetings.

“I think a student-athlete should have a say-so in that. He should be involved in that conversation. It’s not just a commissioner’s world. I’ve got a feeling their families can go for free to the national championship game, but my starting center’s can’t? That’s not right.”

Always The Game

Now that Ohio State and Michigan are in the same division, the East of the newly divided 14-team Big Ten, it means The Game has returned from that awkward regular season-ending meeting of Legends (Michigan) vs. Leaders (OSU) members of the past three years.

But bragging rights were always at stake, Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner said, as Ohio State has gone on an 11-2 run dating to 2001.

“I feel like those bragging rights are the equivalent to winning a championship,” Gardner said. “A lot of fans, a lot of people in our building, if you lose to Ohio State, whether you win a championship or not, that season wasn’t as successful as you’d like it to be.”

Where’s LeBron?

Ohio State senior quarterback Braxton Miller expects to see LeBron James at more Ohio State games this year, now that James, an Akron native, has left the Miami Heat to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“Plus, he says his son, he looks up to me, too,” Miller said. “So he probably will come to a lot more games.”

tmay@dispatch.com

@TIM_MAYsports

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