Ohio State To Push For Player Family Travel

As the College Football Playoff heats up, so does the debate on whether players' families should be helped in their travels to watch their sons play in the big games. Ohio State thinks so and is doing what it can to stand up for families.

Mere minutes after beating Alabama to win the Sugar Bowl and advance to the first-ever College Football Playoff National Championship Game, Urban Meyer was thinking about more than just football.

"My concern, and I think I'm probably going to address it again, is what are we doing for these that they have to go one more week, and their families," the Ohio State head coach said at his postgame press conference beamed across the country. "Are we going to get their families to Dallas? We should. That should happen immediately that there should be an immediate committee meeting somewhere to say these families can't -- let's get them to Dallas and watch their sons play in college football history.

"That's more important than anything else being said today. How do these two players who played their hearts out for the Ohio State University, for the Big Ten Conference and for college football, let's get their families there so they can watch them play."

Meyer has banged that drum going all the way back to the summer and Big Ten Media Days, and Ohio State athletics director Gene Smith has been in favor of such matters of student-athlete welfare for years. Now, Smith has said he is going to put his money where his mouth is, saying OSU will initiate legislation to try to make this a reality.

"I have always been in agreement with Coach Meyer," Smith posted on his Twitter account at @OSU_AD. "I wish we could help the families of players more than we currently can. I will initiate NCAA legislation to allow us to provide more financial assistance in the future for postseason trips."

Currently, Ohio State can provide only a $800 reimbursement for families, many of which have said each postseason trip can cost close to $5,000 for a family of four given marked-up hotel and airfare prices. Schools and boosters cannot under NCAA rules provide more, and it seems unlikely any changes in the rules will take effect before this year's postseason ends Jan. 12 with the College Football Playoff title game.

This has been an issue for years, but it has taken on increased importance both because of the addition of the title game as well as the new contract signed between universities and ESPN that will result in the cable operator paying $500 million per year to televise the playoff games. In addition, loosening NCAA rules on increasing benefits provided to student-athletes in light of many recent lawsuits about compensation have been in the news and the subject of much debate.

"I think when it comes to the bowl game, when the playoff committee was put together, they didn’t think about the players families," Annie Apple, the mother of cornerback Eli Apple, previously told BSB. “How are the families going to get there? It’s sad because there’s so much money.”

How Smith's legislation will work remains to be seen. The playoff itself could handle the travel expenses, it could come from the conference fund -- under the new system, the Big Ten will receive close to $75 million in bowl revenues this year -- or the legislation could leave it up to the schools to figure out what they want to do to help out if their team makes it.

And what about other sports such as women's volleyball and men's soccer, tournaments in sports that don't make the same money but whose parents would want to seek the same benefits? Those tournaments often begin regionally and are held in smaller, more affordable markets, but should something be done nonetheless?

In many ways, the argument echoes that at the national level going on regarding how to share more of the mushrooming revenues in college sports with the athletes on the field. Autonomy was passed for the Power 5 conferences -- those that make the most money -- in August to open up the chance for those schools to do more to help "student-athlete welfare" including establishing cost-of-attendance stipends and extending benefits such as player family travel for postseason games.

The first proposals -- which include Big Ten-supported initiatives to allow scholarships to include cost of attendance, guarantee multiyear scholarships, provide a lifetime educational commitment and improve medical insurance for student-athletes -- are expected to be discussed later this month. There are no easy answers, but the feeling that change is coming continues to be in the air.

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