Reaching the NCAA tournament is every college basketball player’s goal each season.
When teams earn their bids and find out where they will be playing in the Big Dance on Selection Sunday, players’ families often scramble to find a way to get to the first-round sites just days later. They, understandably, want to see their children play on the biggest stage the sport has to offer.
Traveling to those games on such short notice, though, isn’t always an easy task — and can be extremely expensive.
Houston coach Kelvin Sampson has seen that firsthand.
Sampson said it’s often not only the cost of traveling that prevents parents and families from attending the NCAA tournament, but the act of traveling and locking down an affordable hotel room.
The family of one of his players simply can’t afford to do that.
“I had one of my kids, I’m not going to mention who it is, his parents would like to come,” Sampson said Thursday. “The only way they could come would be to drive. And then they’d have to get a hotel room, possibly, if they came in on Friday, they would be here Friday and Saturday night. For a lot of people, that’s not a big deal. But that’s a big deal for that family. They don’t have the money to do that. So they would have to decide how they would do it.”
"I've had families ask if they can sleep on their son's hotel room floor"— Cayden McFarland (@caydenmc) March 21, 2019
Great stuff from Kelvin Sampson about how the NCAA should find a way to help with travel to the Tournament for families that can't afford the trip.@UHCougarMBK #MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/2y4lpD3Yk8
Sampson and his team took a flight from Houston to Tulsa, Oklahoma, for their first two games at the BOK Center, forgoing the nearly 500-mile drive. Players are provided with a hotel room through the duration of the tournament, too.
Those rooms, though, aren’t available for families.
“I’ve had families ask me, ‘Can I sleep on my son’s floor, in his room?’” Sampson said. “Think about that now. That’s my life. That’s not unusual for me. ‘Can I sleep on his floor?’ Because they don’t have the money to pay for a room.”
Sampson led No. 3 Houston to a dominant win against No. 14 Georgia State in the opening round of the tournament, setting the Cougars up for a second-round matchup against No. 11 Ohio State on Sunday
There are a lot of issues surrounding the NCAA and the lack of compensation for its student-athletes. Sampson will be the first to tell you that he doesn’t have all the answers to solve those problems.
But with how big college basketball and the NCAA has become, he thinks it’s only right that the governing body takes care of player’s families in the postseason.
“When you look around at how big this industry has become, why can’t we figure that out?” Sampson asked. “I’m not saying give them this, or give them that. I’m saying that when young men get to the NCAA tournament, let’s find a way to get their parents and their brothers and sisters a plane ticket and a hotel room. I don’t think that’s asking too much.”
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