As we approach the postseason for most fall sports, this is a good opportunity to discuss permissible expenses for squads as they travel to and participate in bowl games and other postseason championship events.
In general, an institution may provide team transportation for a student-athlete to travel to and from campus to the site of an NCAA championship, National Governing Body championship in an emerging sport or a postseason bowl game. NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199.1.1 addresses the exceptions to that general rule. Specifically, the exceptions address situations in which the student-athlete lives near the site of the postseason competition or wishes to travel home directly from the postseason competition site instead of returning to campus.
Scenario #1: A football player from San Diego, California wishes to go home for the holiday and would like to meet his squad in Pasadena for the Rose Bowl. If the student-athlete were to travel to San Diego prior to meeting his squad in Pasadena and then travel back to San Diego after the competition, is the institution allowed to provide any of the transportation costs of such travel?
A: In general, it is permissible for an institution to provide (in lieu of team transportation) the greater of the transportation costs for the student-athlete to travel from:
1. Campus to the event site and back to campus
2. Campus to the student-athlete’s home and back to campus
3. The student-athlete’s home to the event site and back home.
Scenario #2: Similar situation as Scenario #1 except the student-athlete chooses to travel with the team from Columbus to New Orleans and then travel home to Hattiesburg after postseason competition concludes. Under these circumstances, what portion of the student-athlete’s transportation expenses, if any, is the institution allowed to provide?
A: In this situation, an institution would be required to deduct the cost of the actual transportation from Columbus to New Orleans from the amount that would have been provided had the student-athlete been provided transportation expenses under similar circumstances mentioned above.
Scenario #3: A men’s soccer student-athlete chooses to stay at his parents’ home in Dublin for the holiday instead of his apartment near campus. His squad is preparing for postseason competition on campus during the holiday, but he does not have a car to drive to campus for practice. May the institution provide the student-athlete with transportation to and from the team practice site?
A: An institution may not provide transportation (e.g. shuttle, van) to on-campus practice sites for student-athletes traveling to and from their on- or off-campus residences, except in unusual situations involving danger, inclement weather or other similar extenuating circumstances.
Once a team departs from the institution for postseason competition, the institution may pay certain expenses associated with travel and practice in preparation for competition. Specifically, NCAA Bylaw 188.8.131.52 states that an institution may provide up to $20 per day to each member of a squad to cover unitemized incidental expenses during travel and practice for NCAA championships. Each sport has specific limitations as to how many days such per diem can be given. For postseason bowl contests, the period a per diem is given is not to exceed 10 days.
Scenario #4: A national car rental company is sponsoring a postseason football bowl game. Since the team arrived at the competition site, the sponsor has been giving each student-athlete $25 per diem for dinner. Two days before the bowl game, the sponsor arranges a buffet-style dinner for the players. The value of the buffet-style meal was $15 per player. Would it be permissible for the institution to give each student-athlete $10 to make up for the difference between the dinner per diem and the value of the dinner they received that night?
A: It is not permissible for the institution to provide the student-athlete with the cash difference between the amount allocated for per diem by the sponsoring agency and the actual cost of the individual’s meal and/or lodging expenses.
Please keep in mind that the above information is only an overview of NCAA bylaws governing permissible expenses associated with participation with postseason competitions. If you have any questions or need help in determining permissible and impermissible expenses with regards to student-athletes participating in postseason competition, please contact the Ohio State University Athletic Compliance Office at (614) 292-2681.