College athletic programs bring in huge sums of money for schools each year. In fact, in 2019, the National College Athletic Association reported that nearly $19 billion in revenue was generated by NCAA athletic departments across the country. Private institutions are not required to disclose their yearly revenue, so this number is likely much higher.
Unsurprisingly, college football brings in the vast majority of a school’s revenue—more than virtually any other sport combined. When competing in games across the country is a large and fundamental part of a college athlete’s experience, two interesting questions arise: How does a college football team travel, and how does that factor into the larger college athlete experience?
Methods of Travel Include Planes, Trains, and Auto (Buses)
College football teams often travel extensively. Depending on the size of the school and its location in the country, the NCAA categorizes college football teams into three distinct divisions and a handful of subdivisions.
Division I and Power Five schools tend to be the most prominent players that bring in the most money. These schools often have massive transportation budgets, so their athletes may travel from game to game on private planes. Between coaches, players, staff, and other ancillaries, over a hundred people might need to be transported to a given location on a given game day, so finding a reliable method of transportation is very important for most college football teams.
Smaller schools or teams traveling more locally might bus their players to games or book other kinds of travel arrangements when necessary.
How Are Team Trips Organized?
With so many moving parts and a huge number of people to transport, it is not always simple to arrange travel to college football games. Many teams employ an operations manager or multiple operations assistants to guarantee that game days run smoothly and that all travel is efficiently handled.
Operations managers are often tasked with managing the athletics budget, ensuring logistical details relating to scheduling and travel are smoothed out, and more. Unsurprisingly, this is a big job that requires experience and attention to detail.
The Student Athlete Experience Is Pretty Insane
For student-athletes, it is sometimes hard to assess which part of their identity comes first: student or athlete. These talented players spend countless hours at practice and training to prepare for a rigorous football season and simultaneously try to find a way to balance their course load and social life while finding time to eat well and rest.
Colleges Do Offer Support
The good news is, particularly at schools with massive football programs, there are a plethora of resources dedicated to helping student-athletes succeed—from physical trainers to access to academic support centers. Countless articles have surfaced over the years detailing the excessive gourmet food budgets allocated for college football players.
But Being on a College Football Team Is Still a Lot
For student-athletes, particularly college football players, time management is huge. For these student-athletes, playing football is practically a full-time job. While the NCAA has placed weekly caps on practice hours, many players unofficially exceed those caps.
These practice hours are tested in a season that is between 10 to 13 games long. If each team plays about half of their season at home, college football players can still expect to travel for at least five games a season. Easily 40 hours a week can be dedicated to preparing for games and playing football on away game weeks.
College football is a staple of American culture. As fans, we celebrate game days and cheer on our teams, even long after graduation. We build brackets, create Fantasy teams, and host game day events. Only a select few students throughout the country will ever play college football, and an even smaller amount will play Division I or in some other highly competitive league.
As we enter upcoming football seasons, it is important to keep in mind how hard these student-athletes are working. While jetting from school to school to play in nationally televised games might seem glamorous, there is a great deal of discourse surrounding the amount these students “work,” how they are compensated (or not) for their time, and beyond.