Three months after fatal plane crash, Oklahoma State University plans review of travel policy

BY SILAS ALLEN sallen@opubco.com Published: February 23, 2012

Questions have surfaced since the crash about how the university's travel policy applies to coaches. The single-engine Piper did not meet the policy's requirement that aircraft used in university-related travel be “powered by two or more turbine engines.”

OSU officials have said that policy doesn't apply to coaches when they travel without student athletes.

However, a section of the policy deals specifically with coaches and athletic department staff traveling without students. It outlines what types of aircraft are acceptable for such trips. The section states that coaches traveling alone may use other aircraft that would be prohibited for team travel.

The policy then lists what appear to be minimum requirements for such other aircraft. Included in the list is a requirement that aircraft be “powered by two or more turbine engines.”

OSU football recruiting director Johnny Barr said the football team rarely uses private aircraft on recruiting trips. Football coaches typically drive or take commercial flights, Barr said.

For example, he said, coaches who are traveling in Oklahoma or to Dallas-Fort Worth area for recruiting purposes typically drive. Others who go to more far-flung cities in Texas, such as Houston and San Antonio, may take commercial flights, he said.

All 10 of the team's coaches make recruiting trips, Barr said. The nine assistant coaches have designated areas in Oklahoma and Texas where they recruit, he said, while head coach Mike Gundy could travel anywhere.

NCAA rules govern how many recruiting trips a team's coaches can make per year and when those trips may be scheduled. But it's up to the team to decide where those trips will be made, Barr said, and it's largely left to the coaches to decide how to get there.

Occasionally, coaches may need to take small, private aircraft, Barr said. For those flights, Barr keeps a list of about six private pilots he knows are reliable and keep their planes well maintained, he said.

Although the November crash hasn't caused the team to make any drastic changes in the way its coaches travel, Barr said the memory of it has had an impact on the staff.

“It's got all of our attention,” he said.

OSU's athletic travel policy was enacted in 2002, the year after an airplane crash near Strasburg, Colo., killed 10 men associated with OSU men's basketball program. The policy has been revised twice since then.



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