Outstanding article by AP writer John Marshall on the rigors of travel for the smallest of NCAA Division 1 schools. In this particular article he focuses on Northern Arizona University, but frankly, this is fairly representative of the majority of schools in NCAA Division 1 and 2. Of course, it becomes a whole different animal with D3, NAIA, and JUCOs, where the geographic footprint may be smaller, but quite often a 50-passenger motor coach would be a luxury.
By JOHN MARSHALL, AP BASKETBALL WRITER
As the bus rolls past mileage signs for places like Malad City, Arimo and Woodruff, the long frames of Northern Arizona’s basketball players splay across the seats. Heads rest on makeshift pillows of jackets and backpacks, legs stretch across aisles, feet rise above headrests.
Outside, flurries dance in the headlights as roadside reflectors flash like car turn signals. Yellow weed stalks, evidence of a recent thaw, peek through the white blanket along the highway.
Pockets of dense fog envelop the bus, visibility measured in yards for perilous moments before thankfully clearing.
The players are oblivious to the cold world outside. Their only concern is finding comfort on this opening three-hour leg of a two-day return to Flagstaff, Arizona.
“It’s pretty hard travel after a game,” NAU coach Jack Murphy said. “You want to get home, get the guys some rest on their day off, but it’s a long day of travel on their ‘day off.'”
Travel is one of the most arduous aspects of college basketball. Hours upon hours every season are dedicated to getting to the next town, buses and planes essentially becoming players’ and coaches’ mobile second homes.
Some have it easier than others.
At the highest levels of Division I, buses park next to charter planes filled with spacious seats, teams’ schedules based on when the runway is open. Convenience affords efficiency: Practice at home, fly out in the evening, play the next day, head straight home.
Travel at the low-major level can feel like “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.” All that’s missing is the train and Del Griffith.
Read the entire article at ABCNEWS.Go.com.