During a special meeting of the Coastal Carolina University Board of Trustees on Monday, the topic of the school’s displaced athletic teams traversing the country on extended road trips over the past three weeks was broached.
One board member wondered how the school was going to pay for all the extra travel expenses.
Well, the school’s athletic department has been working on that.
Coastal director of athletics Matt Hogue estimates the expenses will be several hundred thousand dollars.
With the campus being largely shut down, the school hasn’t yet audited the athletic teams’ travels, which also aren’t fully completed, so there isn’t a final number on the total cost.
“We’re talking about probably several hundred thousand dollars, but several hundred thousand dollars is not a number that scares me or I think scares anybody else when you’re talking about a university budget that is well into the hundreds of millions,” Hogue said.
With campus essentially closed to students beginning with the mandated shutdown of government offices on Sept. 11 prior to Hurricane Florence making landfall, student-athletes haven’t been allowed to stay on campus and teams haven’t been able to organize activities on campus, including practices and games.
“Your first focus is let’s make sure we’re addressing the teams’ needs, that we’re making sure they’re safe, we’re making sure they have a plan for what we’re going to do for however long we have to do it,” Hogue said. “So you’re not going to let cutting corners on dollars and cents affect that.”
The largest expenses have been lodging, food and transportation.
The football program was on the road for 12 days and required approximately 100 rooms per night, Hogue said, and the initial purchase order for the Renaissance Hotel at the World Golf Village in Jacksonville, Fla., was $150,000. That was before the team learned it would have to stay there nine nights because campus did not reopen the week after Florence hit.
The school has announced classes will resume Monday and residence halls will reopen at noon Friday, so Coastal’s athletic teams can resume normal activities on campus next week. “We’re nearing the final stage of this I think,” Hogue said.
Hogue said there are at least three possible sources of funding to help pay for the travel expenses that the athletic department and university are considering.
There is an NCAA Special Assistance Fund for student-athletes in need, and Hogue said CCU has to go through the Sun Belt Conference to receive approval for its use. “We’ve already had discussions with the Sun Belt about how we can leverage that source of funds,” he said. “I think that will be a big help to us.”
There are university contingency dollars that are available for unforeseen circumstances, “something like this being one of them,” Hogue said.
And the school could potentially file an insurance claim to recoup some of the money. “There could be a potential effort on the insurance front, I just don’t know what that looks like right now because we’ll have to get all of our data and information pulled together before we know if there is any kind of claim that can be made,” Hogue said.
Some of the travel and expenses were already budgeted for teams playing road games, so that has to be factored out of the total costs.
In addition to the travel, CCU lost revenue because it had to move its home football game against Campbell to Buies Creek, N.C., and there were no ticket sales.
“Our university financially is incredibly strong, it’s run incredibly well financially,” Hogue said, “so I don’t think anyone has any concern or worry about dealing with this, we’ve just got to make sure we maximize the different sources and opportunities that we have.”
Most teams have returned to the area. Athletes in private off-campus housing have returned to their residences, and some teammates are staying with them or have found alternative lodging.
“A lot of our teams, whether they’re in season or out of season, have already kind of reassembled in a sense, a lot of those students are back,” Hogue said. “So if a practice can be organized it has been organized.”
Members of the football team who are normally in university housing are staying at the Sheraton Hotel at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, where the team has established a base of operations for the week utilizing meeting rooms and ballrooms before leaving Friday for its game at Troy in Alabama.
CCU’s football team was on the road for 12 days, staying in Raleigh, N.C., for a night, playing a game at Campbell, staying in Jacksonville for eight days and traveling to Lafayette, La., for a game Saturday that it won 30-28.
In addition to football, the school’s men’s and women’s soccer and golf teams have spent significant time away from home.
The women’s soccer team is on the longest odyssey and is the only team that remains on the road. It left the area on Sept. 12 and is scheduled to return on Saturday, which will be its 18th consecutive day on the road.
The team has gone 3-0 during its trip thus far, with wins over Little Rock in a game moved from CCU to Kennesaw State in Georgia, South Alabama and Troy, and plays at Appalachian State in Boone, N.C., on Sunday afternoon in a game that was moved from Coastal.
The team trained in Atlanta then Foley, Ala., prior to its two games in that state and is in Hickory, N.C., preparing for its game Sunday.
“Part of the reason they have the longest period was really more dictated by the schedule they had in front of them and the ease that it was for them to be able to stay together and have somewhere to practice,” Hogue said.
The men’s soccer team returned Saturday after 11 days on the road, then traveled to Charleston to face the University of Portland in a battle of national top-25 teams at the home of the Charleston Battery professional soccer team.
The team returned following a 2-1 loss and is practicing off campus this week. It canceled scheduled home games against Radford and George Mason on Sept. 11 and 16, spent six days in Orlando, Fla., a few days in Williamsburg, Va., in advance of its game Friday against William & Mary, then returned home for a day before spending a day in Charleston prior to the Portland game.
The men’s golf team played two tournaments in Minnesota and Illinois during an 11-day trip and returned last week.
The women’s golf team had to leave nearly a week early for its season-opening tournament in Knoxville, Tenn., and stayed in Augusta, Ga., outside Atlanta, Knoxville and Greenville before returning to the area this past weekend.
CCU is trying to salvage many of its teams’ games because the NCAA has a minimum number of games you must play to qualify for a full season and postseason eligibility. “If it makes sense we’ve tried to move forward and get a game in,” Hogue said.