Rather than stay in California for two days between games this week, Washington and Washington State flew home on charter flights for a short stay.
Washington and Washington State faced a travel dilemma this week. With both teams scheduled to play two games in the Bay Area in the span of three days, they could stay in California between games or return for about 36 hours before flying back.
Both chose the latter, boarding charter flights following their games Wednesday and coming home early Thursday morning. While most students slept, the teams rolled onto their respective campuses. After two days of practice, they’ll return to Northern California on Friday night for games Saturday. Washington plays Stanford at 8 p.m. while Washington State faces California at 1 p.m.
The increased travel is the price of doing business in the Pac-12, with its new cable-TV network and broadcasting deals with ESPN and FOX, which will produce $3 billion in revenue the next 12 years.
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In the days of the Pac-10, teams played almost all conference games on Thursday and Saturday. However, when commissioner Larry Scott took over he looked for ways to give the conference more exposure. He scheduled games on Sunday to reach a broader audience.
When the Pac-12 finalized its blockbuster TV deal, teams needed to adapt to playing league games on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday.
Washington and Washington State will make about $21 million per year from the broadcasting deal, and the additional revenue is used in part to fund charter flights.
“We’ve never done it as much as we’ll do it this year,” UW coach Lorenzo Romar said. “That’s a commitment from the administration. They recognize this will be a benefit to our players.”
Washington State coach Ken Bone said flying home on chartered flights between games has its advantages and disadvantages.
“The positive is the kids can be in class as much as we can allow them to,” he said. “The negative is just the fact that it’s a lot of coming and going.”
The travel is arduous on Washington and particularly Washington State more than other Pac-12 schools because of the distance to everyone else in the conference.
“If I had my choice, when you play Wednesday and Saturday and come back, I prefer it would be against Oregon and somebody a little bit closer so it’s not that long of a trip,” Romar said. “Although Cal-Stanford is not too long of a trip.”
Washington will return home between Wednesday and Saturday games against Oregon State and Oregon later this month.
However, the Huskies will remain in Arizona for six days when they play the Wildcats and Arizona State in February because chartering flights between games “doesn’t make sense,” Romar said.
Admittedly, he’s unsure how the Huskies will respond to the additional flights. Still, he knows they have no other choice than to adapt to the new travel changes.
“That’s the price we pay or the exchange we made for television,” he said. “We’ve all been willing to do it. We just have to make the adjustment.”
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org