Drew Eastland ‘21
Every season, Davidson athletes travel thousands of miles to compete in away games. The men’s basketball team alone will travel approximately 13,120 miles this season. For road games, coaches have to ask themselves, how much can we spend? What will we do when we arrive? How will we travel?
Every team is given a different budget for all annual expenses. The budget numbers are not disclosed by the Davidson Athletic Department; however, the budgets are based on the revenues a team generates, donations a team receives, the team’s roster size, and a few other factors.
“At every college, [budget differences] would be the case…no two sports are the same,” said Associate Director of Athletics Dick Cooke. “I don’t know [if] that’s accessible info either; I’m pretty confident that’s info [the athletic department won’t] share.”
Coaches determine their own travel budget from their overall budget. These decisions are based on game schedules.
“Each coach creates [their] travel budget line based on the dollars [they have] and what [their] travel is going to project to be,” Cooke said. “[The athletic administrators] let the coaches bounce ideas off of [them].”
While each team plans travel similarly, not every team facilitates travel in the same way. The swim team flies only once a year, for example, while the basketball teams fly multiple times a year. This often has to do with the schedule differences and how far each team is traveling. Davidson sports teams generally travel by charter bus or commercial flight.
According to Cooke, when the driving distance is greater than six hours teams will take a plane. Since Davidson is the southernmost school in the A-10, teams often fly to any school north of the D.C. area. Davidson coaches generally elect to take a commercial flight when they fly. Booking a charter flight requires some extra approval from the athletic department due to the large cost.
The golf team and football teams have unique travel arrangements. The golf team takes a van to and from some tournaments and competitions. The football team benefits from a generous anonymous donor who flies them to some road games in his private aircraft.
Coaches must also consider the college’s missed class policy when planning their teams’ travel. Davidson allows student athletes to miss up to two Tuesday-Thursday classes and three Monday-Wednesday-Friday classes in each semester. This policy has been in place for over three decades.
“A lot of [scheduling] revolves around our missed class policy…we’re probably the only school in the conference that has a missed class policy,” Head Women’s Basketball Coach Gayle Coats Fulks commented. “We [take] commercial flights unless we start to get into that missed class policy.”
The grind of travel can be tough on players both mentally and physically. In some sports, like basketball, players may have two road games in one week. Balancing rest with travel can be difficult.
“I definitely think it’s a bit of a grind,” Coats Fulks reflected. “The combination of missing class and travel…can be a lot; our players do a great job of managing it.”
Despite the sacrifices that athletes must make to travel, many of them enjoy the process. It can be a good way to build team camaraderie and see new places.
“I enjoy it; I actually find away games to be a lot of fun,” linebacker George Hatalowich ‘20 said. “I look at it as- I’ve played football in California. I played in Jacksonville when it’s a hundred some degrees, but I’ve also played in a wind blizzard in Iowa; I think it’s a blessing.”
Getting equipment to and from the location is another factor coaches and teams consider when making travel plans. The football team sends their gear two days before the game by truck. Other teams carry all their athletic and personal gear with them to their destination.
Potential travel inconveniences always concern coaches and athletes. When flying commercial there’s always a chance of delays or cancellation, and buses can get caught in traffic or bad weather. For the swim team last season, these fears became a reality.While driving to their mid season championship meet, Davidson’s bus became stuck in a blizzard in West Virginia. It took a total of sixteen hours to get to the pool.
Once teams arrive at their destination, they each have a unique process to get from transportation to competition. Athletes are always provided with food either directly or through a stipend. The football team follows a disciplined schedule for every road game while the swim team does something different for every away meet. Teams also develop travel traditions. The women’s basketball team has a quiz on the scouting report before their game.
“Everyone has their bus buddies,” swimmer Rachel Hendricks ‘21 explained. “We’ve got our little sleeping arrangement; I sleep up against the window, and she sleeps on my lap, because I don’t care if she sleeps on my lap, and she can sleep anywhere.”
Coaches do not have to worry about paying for postseason travel expenses.
“The A-10 is a really progressive conference in that it will help teams offset their tournament expenses,” Cooke remarked. “I don’t think there’s too many conferences in the country that do that.”
Some athletes expressed their preferences for subtle changes in the current travel process. For example, the swim team buses to some meets the day of the event, and they also bus all the way to Ohio for their conference meet.
“In an ideal world it would be very nice if we could fly to our conference meet because conference is a week-long process,” Hendricks commented. “I know swimming doesn’t necessarily have that money.”