SAN DIEGO – The NCAA apologized to New Mexico State and said it will evaluate its travel policy after the Aggies had to fly home in the middle of the night after their second-round tournament loss in Spokane and were met by only one bus at the airport.
Athletic director McKinley Boston told The Associated Press on Monday he received a call during the weekend from Dan Gavitt, vice president of the men’s basketball championship.
“He said it was inconsistent with their effort to provide the full NCAA experience,” Boston said.
“He was disappointed that our experience wasn’t a positive one and that they would do everything possible to evaluate it and try to make sure the experience going forward was adequate.”
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New Mexico State and San Diego State were told before Thursday’s game in Spokane that the loser would have to fly home that night. The game started later than scheduled because the North Dakota State-Oklahoma game went into overtime, and then the Aggies and Aztecs went into overtime before San Diego State won 73-69.
After Aggies coach Marvin Menzies and players fulfilled their postgame interview obligations, the team, pep band and cheerleaders went back to a hotel about 15 miles from downtown Spokane and quickly packed while hotel employees prepared 70 box lunches. The Aggies arrived at the airport at about 1 a.m. The plane departed at about 2:15 a.m. and arrived in El Paso, Texas, at around 7 a.m.
One bus was waiting. The team and some boosters were bused to Las Cruces, N.M., while everyone else had to wait for the bus to make the 2½ -hour round trip to pick them up.
“That part of it was probably the most disappointing thing for me, only because I knew that two-thirds of the plane was going to be disappointed that we’d flown all night, and now they’ve got to sit around for another two to three hours because at that point we didn’t know very much information other than there was one bus,” Boston said.
The matter might not have been a big deal beyond Las Cruces if not for San Diego State coach Steve Fisher, who ripped into the NCAA in his postgame news conference.
“I’m going to do something I never do. I’m going to complain about the NCAA process. And I hope somebody writes it,” said the normally genial Fisher, mentioning neither team wanted to go home that night if it lost.
“It’s disgraceful,” said Fisher, who hired Menzies as part of his original staff at San Diego State in 1999. “For the billions of dollars that we have here for them not to find a way to accommodate these kids, the student-athletes — you can’t tell me they couldn’t find charter planes. And that’s what they told me. I shouldn’t have to call the NCAA, and I did today to say, ‘Why?’ ”
Fisher suggested an NCAA administrator should have to fly home with a losing team “and see what it’s like to get home at 5 in the morning. It shouldn’t happen.”
Boston was AD at Minnesota for part of the time Fisher was the coach at Michigan.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Steve,” Boston said. “I know he’s a passionate person. When I saw it on YouTube, I was impressed. He’s a stand-up guy. Always has been.”
David McCollum, New Mexico State’s deputy AD, said he got an apology from the bus company. He said details on the Aggies’ arrival time hadn’t been passed along to the company.
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