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Charter Flights for Athletes Aren’t Always What They Seem

As Stanford University was wrapping up play this weekend in an NCAA regional softball tournament in Nebraska, Cardinal officials got on the phone with the NCAA to arrange a flight back to Palo Alto, Calif.

Their job: Get their 30 or so players and staff members home as quickly and safely as possible following their last game on Sunday, as thunderstorms were rolling through the Midwest.

The NCAA, which covers the cost of travel for teams during its postseason championships, lined up a charter flight to get the Stanford women back in time for classes on Monday. That seemed like good news for team members, until they saw the plane.

If you assume “charter” means first-class travel, let this tweet from Stanford’s Kevin Blue disabuse you of that idea:

Hard to believe that @NCAA sent us on a prop plane for a 4.5 hr flight from Nebraska to San Jose (!). In Grand Junction, CO getting gas …

He later tweeted about safety concerns related to flying through the storms. And in an interview, he described the aircraft as a “rickety old prop plane.” It was so small it couldn’t fit the team’s equipment, which had to stay in Nebraska.

Mr. Blue said it wasn’t his intention to blame the NCAA for the problems, and he stressed that he was grateful that the team returned safely on Sunday night.

“Everyone was trying to make the best out of a tricky situation,” he said. “I would like to emphasize our appreciation to the NCAA for making the accommodations to get us back for class.”

According to Karen Peters, a former Stanford official who is now a senior associate athletic director at the University of Portland, financial considerations often dictate when NCAA travel is involved. In response to one of Mr. Blue’s tweets, she wrote this:

Our men’s soccer team was on a prop plane from ABQ to Virginia 2 years ago. Travel driven by cost, not stu-athl experience.

Later she tweeted to Mr. Blue: “I imagine the @NCAA will be getting a phone call this morning …”

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