The rising cost of fuel is beginning to put the squeeze on college sports. Schools once accustomed to sending athletes on major road trips may soon find them too expensive. Some already have.
Wake Forest, for example, has canceled a couple of future football games on the West Coast because of mounting fuel and travel prices. Even Big Ten schools aren't immune. "It looks like Indiana's future schedules will be nine conference games and Missouri and Kentucky because of this economic thing," says Coach Lee Corso.
Brigham Young's LaVell Edwards believes rising costs are going to affect recruiting too. "People are starting to pull in their horns and recruit more regionally," he observes.
In general, buttering up a recruit by telling him or her the team goes by plane, not bus, may soon be frowned upon. John Fuzak, former president of the NCAA, says it no longer should be considered ethical to use mode of transportation as a recruiting gimmick.
Chartering planes has become increasingly difficult, Fuzak explains in an article about the changing face of athletic travel in the NCAA News. To some degree, discount air fares have come to the rescue. Since most of these special fares are for flights betweeb metropolitan areas, Fuzak anticipates greater use of combined bus and plane travel. He also sees feeder airlines as an option to booking space on the large commercial carriers.
Besides exploring better ways of going from here to there, schools are certain to follow Wake Forest's lead by attempting to stay closer to home. In some cases this may involve forging new conferences or adjusting existing ones along geographical lines. Not long ago Michigan, Michigan State, Michigan Tech, and Notre Dame dropped out of the highly regarded Western Collegiate Hockey Association to join the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.
Athletic directors in search of cost-cutting measures might want to consider several possibilities suggested by Fuzak. Among them are to:
* Break conferences into geographical divisions in some sports.
* Combine the schedules of teams in different sports so that they could travel together.
* Eliminate regular-season conference competition in some sports, and use a conference meet to determine the league champion.
* Combine bus travel to the conference meet with other schools, with one or more teams being picked up en route.