Syracuse players, parents and coaches favor expanded family travel allowances

first_img Comments Published on February 6, 2019 at 11:49 pm Contact Matthew: [email protected] | @MatthewGut21 In the final game of their son’s career, Blessed and Darlene Ishmael sat in Carrier Dome section 128, row nine. They supported Steve Ishmael, Syracuse’s star wide receiver, who broke two program records that day. His parents said they were glad to be there not only to see their son make history, but to see him play for the first time in his four-year career.For the Ishmaels, who reside in Miami, and other parents of Syracuse student-athletes, travel expenses can be too steep to see their sons or daughters play. That Ishmael’s parents hardly saw their son play in-person underscores an issue for athletes and their families.Currently, only families of players on teams that advance to the NCAA Tournament Final Four are compensated with a $3,ooo allowance for travel. According to a NCAA press release, “Schools decide how and when to distribute funds to family members but make sure the funds are used as intended.” The College Football Playoff has a similar waiver, $2,500 for the top-4 football teams’ families in the country, as of 2015. The families of players that reach their respective finals receive $4,000.But many Syracuse players and families want more, saying a travel allowance during the regular season would let families support and celebrate with them. Athletes love when their family shows up: “Just knowing they were in there in the stands gave me motivation,” Ishmael said.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textAnna Henderson | Digital Design EditorLast month, at the NCAA Convention, the council codified the family travel policy, making the program permanent, per a press release. Previously, the NCAA had to renew the rule annually through individual waivers.Syracuse men’s basketball head coach Jim Boeheim has pushed to expand the rule to include more games, he said. If Boeheim were an NCAA administrator, he said one of the first rule changes he’d make would center on travel funding. He’s in favor of funding for families, many of whom live outside New York. Other proposals included potentially putting the onus on a school’s conference.“One hundred percent, we should do more for athletes,” said Kip Wellman, Boeheim’s right-hand man and Syracuse men’s basketball director of operations, who handles travel for SU. “It’s not a money issue, because we have the money. The NCAA has the money. We should help families. The NCAA prides itself on student-athletes and them having a great experience. Well, it would help that experience if their parents could come to their games more.”Anna Henderson | Digital Design EditorBoeheim and Wellman are not alone. Kentucky head coach John Calipari and former Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said to the Louisville Courier Journal they expressed interest in expanding the travel policy, which began in 2015 for the Division I men’s and women’s basketball Final Fours.The high cost for families to watch their children has long been an issue. Recently, the NCAA has removed limits on meals and approved substantial autonomy for the Power Five conferences.It remains to be seen whether the NCAA will expand its policy, and whether an expanded policy would cover parents traveling to lower-profile championships: hockey’s Frozen Four, baseball’s College World Series and soccer’s College Cup. Families from multiple of SU’s Olympic sports, including women’s basketball, men’s lacrosse and men’s soccer, said the strain of having to pay for trips can mitigate the enjoyment of attending games.InfogramSU running back Moe Neal grew up in Gastonia, North Carolina, where his father still lives. Moe Neal Sr. has driven 12 hours to attend nearly every game at the Carrier Dome. He’s attended all but one of his son’s 37 matchups over the past three seasons, totaling about 40,000 miles in cars he rents. He estimates the trips have cost him $300 to $500 each, totaling about $15,000 since 2016.“Seeing him on the field gives me chills,” Neal Sr. said. “I know he appreciates it, because being there to see him and how he feels after the game, and to show him my love, means so much to us.”During their respective 2016 Final Four runs, the Syracuse women’s and men’s basketball teams benefited from allowances. However, many parents struggle to save up for travelling expenses or can’t afford to fly to games otherwise. Footing the bill for airfare, lodging and food can run close to, or more than, $1,000 for a single game, based on interviews with SU parents.Anna Henderson | Digital Design EditorSophomore forward Marek Dolezaj’s parents, who live in Slovakia, have been to a few games in his two seasons. Dolezaj said an allowance for travel would be “really helpful” for his family to see him in-person more often. Sophomore forward Oshae Brissett said his family drives four hours from the Toronto area to many games, and he “knows how it feels not having your parents there to watch you. When they’re there, you have a lot more to play for.”Benji Hardaway, mother of junior guard Gabrielle Cooper, revolves her business around the season to save up money for trips. Before Syracuse begins its season every November, Hardaway works 15-hour days as a hairstylist to pay for train tickets from Illinois to Syracuse — and back. Hardaway estimates she spends $150 roundtrip on her typically same-day tickets and attends around 90 percent of SU’s contests.Two years ago, men’s basketball junior guard Elijah Hughes transferred to Syracuse from East Carolina for, among other reasons, close proximity to his Beacon, New York home. During his freshman year at ECU, his parents rarely saw him in-person, his father, Wayne, said. He never drove to Greenville, North Carolina, ECU’s campus for games. Now Elijah’s four sisters, three nephews and close friends drive three and a half hours to see him play. Afterward, they grab dinner and return home, arriving back in Beacon as late as 4:30 a.m.Anna Henderson | Digital Design EditorAt most games, two faces are almost always there: Jonathan Howard, father of senior point guard Frank Howard, and Gary Battle, father of junior guard Tyus Battle. Howard’s father wears an orange hat, shouting: “Come on! Let’s go!” Jonathan drives to games from the Washington D.C. area, though he saves up to splurge on an occasional flight.Tyus appreciates his father’s ability take time off work, adjust his hours and block out travel time. The drive is relatively short — under four hours — and Battle knows he’s more fortunate than many of his teammates.“That rule would be extremely important,” Battle said last week. “I’m blessed to have my dad there. My mom, (Daniella), she can’t really make that trip. It’s hard for her. As a player, you want your family there. You don’t see them much throughout the year with practice, games, school.“So when you look over in the crowd and see them, it means a lot.”center_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img