Postseason run carries price for proud parents
Published: Friday, April 4, 2014 at 7:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, April 4, 2014 at 9:41 p.m.
ARLINGTON, Texas — Svend Wilbekin wasn't fooling around this time.
The father of Florida point guard Scottie Wilbekin had gambled the last two years. To make the trips to Omaha and Phoenix in 2012 and Austin and Dallas in 2013 would have been costly. He saved his money for Final Fours that never came.
But not this year.
As soon as the brackets were posted, the Gainesville minister started wheeling and dealing to get the best flights and hotels possible for the final run of a son decorated by both tattoos and awards. He would be there to watch this time.
“It's very challenging,” Svend said. “It's so expensive. They certainly need to do something.”
The Wilbekin family is here, sort of. Svend, wife Katie, sons Mitchell and Andrew (who said he'd pay his own way if he could go) found a hotel in Lewiston, Texas, about 25 miles from the stadium where Wilbekin will play in his first and only Final Four.
“I'm on Cloud Nine,” Svend said. “Going to the Final Four. We got some great deals, and I decided I'd rather pay a little than than be scrambling if they made the Final Four.
“But I don't even want to think about how much this postseason has cost.”
They were in Atlanta and Orlando and Memphis and now Texas. That's plane tickets and gas and rental cars and hotels and everything else.
For the players, it's chartered planes, catered meals and police escorts. For the parents, it's a bit of a hardship.
For example, Casey Prather's parents caught a break when the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight were played an hour from his hometown of Jackson, Tenn., but Patric Young's parents left Jacksonville on Friday for a 15-hour drive to North Texas.
“They drove 10 hours to see me play at Ole Miss,” Young said.
There has been some movement, most of it pushed by coaches in football and basketball where so much revenue is created, for the NCAA to start either allowing schools to pay for parents to attend events or the NCAA paying for the parents to attend events.
At the very least, shouldn't there be a way to get parents to a Final Four or BCS national title game without them having to mortgage their homes? I mean, besides you footing the bill. That would be an NCAA violation.
“The underlying issue here is that everybody is looking for ways to do more for the student-athletes,” said Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley. “What it ends up looking like, time will tell. It's on the list of things being considered.”
I get that it's not as simple as we'd all like to make it. There is a lot going on with the possibilities of athletes unionizing and there is always the issue of Title IX. If you handed airline tickets to the basketball team's parents, you'd have to do it for the softball parents and the golf parents and the track parents.
“That's why the conversations continue,” Foley said.
It would be nice if it was this simple.
Hey, Mr. and Mrs. Young. The NCAA is going to make millions of dollars this weekend and your son has been posing for pictures for the network and busting his tail to get here. So here, enjoy the Marriott Suites in Dallas.
The money is there to do it for the postseason in all of sports and it appears that it will happen, too late for these seniors. Just last week, CBSSports.com reported on a memo circulated among the Power Five conference commissioners that detailed changes that will be made once those conferences achieve autonomy. One of the areas that the power conferences want to deal with in the restructuring is to pay for the transportation for parents to championship events.
“I think it would be fair,” said Young. “It would help the players and it would help the NCAA's image.”
But it won't help Will Yeguete.
Yeguete is entering the final weekend of his college career and his parents, who live in France, have never seen him play in person. They'll be up tonight to watch the game when it starts a little after midnight across the pond.
“I know that if they could have been here, they would,” Yeguete said. “It'd be nice if they helped parents come to things like this especially for the family of foreign kids. It's definitely something to look at.”
Yeguete's parents will make a trip to Gainesville … when he graduates from Florida. It was going to be either for Senior Day or Graduation Day.
“Different priorities, I guess,” Yeguete said. “But getting a degree is far more important than a basketball game.”
So is doing the right thing.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.
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