03.25
2016

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How the NCAA’s Travel Office Pulls the Strings on March Madness

March Madness is upon us and the tournament is currently in full swing. While fans focus on established powerhouse basketball programs facing off against the new Cinderella stories each tournament presents, they remain completely unaware of a different mad dash going on behind the scenes. Making this tournament a possibility takes an exorbitant amount of planning and sometimes a downright scramble to execute travel plans for the teams involved, once the match ups are revealed.

Unveiling the Match ups

On Selection Sunday, the first round match ups for the NCAA tournament are revealed to the college basketball world. Historically, it’s one of the busiest days of the year for the NCAA’s travel office. Officials have to orchestrate travel plans for 68 men’s teams with no previous notice. For the travel office, the mayhem continues all tournament long.

Often times, the travel personnel are the real heroes of the tournament. According to NCAA Vice President for championships Mark Lewis “The people that run our travel department are heroes. They’re miracle workers to pull this off every time.” The NCAA spends $15 million annually on transportation for the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments alone, so the stakes are high for airline and charter company officials, all fighting for a slice of the pie.

The Obstacles

Over the last few years, things have only become more difficult since there’s been a noticeable drop in the number of available charter planes big enough to transport players, bands, cheerleaders and school administrators. New Federal Aviation Administration regulations are now demanding crews get more rest for safety reasons. Additionally, some charter companies the NCAA used to work went out of business resulting in fewer planes and crews airborne during the tournament. The NCAA has between 10 and 15 designated charter planes crossing the country, but it’s their availability that has decreased from previous years.

The travel guessing game gets even trickier when you factor in the time of year the March Madness tournament kicks off. The NCAA is contractually bound to the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) network, with stipulations preventing them from receiving match ups before Selection Sunday. So as soon as match ups are revealed, the scramble starts; teams use mileage calculators to figure out whether they can drive to their round one match ups, or if they qualify for chartered flights.

Transporting people from one end of the country to the other is never easy, even with adequate planning and preparation. March Madness impacts everyone from pilots to baggage handlers and of course the athletes and their coaches, all performing on the world’s biggest stage. Everyone has to be on the same page for it to be a success.

In March, travel industry workers deal with one emergency after another, quietly pulling the strings that keep the entire show afloat for basketball fans to enjoy. Without the efforts of the NCAA’s travel office, there’s no March Madness Tournament. Newcomer teams like Hawaii would never be able to knock off storied programs like the University of California’s Golden Bears (shocking the world for their first tournament win), simply because of the distance between the schools.

Coordination, precision and punctuality extend far beyond College basketball’s heralded tournament. Every day business owners operate with the same core principles, especially when it comes to maintaining their fleet vehicles. With Actsoft products, business owners essentially become their own travel office, dispatching, tracking and maintaining their assets, while they travel to job sites.
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