Plane crash raises questions about OSU's travel policy

Oklahoma State University women's basketball coach Kurt Budke and one of his assistants were flying outside the university's travel policy on a recruiting trip Thursday when the plane crashed in Arkansas, killing all four on board.
BY RANDY ELLIS rellis@opubco.com Published: November 20, 2011

As Oklahoma State University mourns after the second airplane crash to devastate its basketball programs in 11 years, questions have arisen as to how this happened at a school that adopted one of the most strict athletic travel policies in the nation following the first crash in 2001.

The airplane that crashed Thursday killing four people near Perryville, Ark., was a single-engine Piper that would not meet the OSU team travel policy's minimum requirement for aircraft to be “powered by two or more turbine engines.”

Gary Shutt, OSU spokesman, said university officials assert the airplane wasn't required to meet that standard because it was a recruiting trip and no student athletes were on board.

“The team travel policy only applies to team travel,” Shutt said. “The coaches, if they're doing other types of travel, like recruiting, it does not fall under that policy.”

OSU head women's basketball coach Kurt Budke, 50, died in the crash, along with assistant coach Miranda Serna, 36.

Also killed were pilot Olin Branstetter, 82, an OSU booster and former state senator; and the pilot's wife, Paula, 79.

A memorial service is scheduled for 1 p.m. Monday at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater.

While the university has taken the position its team travel policy did not apply to this trip, the policy itself addresses team travel as well as coaches traveling without players.

Much of the 11-page policy is devoted to listing what is required when commercial aircraft, charter flights or time-share flights are used for team travel. The policy then moves to a section that lists specific requirements for other aircraft.

“Other aircraft are an acceptable means of travel for coaches and professional athletic department staff, based on personal election,” the section states.

It then lists what appear to be minimum requirements for such “other aircraft,” including that “the aircraft are powered by two or more turbine engines.”

Another section titled “Other Aircraft Approval” states that OSU's “aviation consultant must approve in writing the use of aircraft prior to travel.”

Shutt said it's his understanding Budke didn't obtain written approval but that university attorneys don't believe he needed to because no team members were on the plane.

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