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CFP's help with travel costs needed

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith thinks the College Football Playoff failed by not providing financial assistance for players' families to attend the inaugural games. Smith wants to see this change by the second year of the playoff.

Smith said on Tuesday that he planned to speak with the athletic directors from Oregon, Alabama and Florida State to learn about their experiences dealing with family travel. He hopes those discussions lead to a proposed NCAA rule change that can be presented to the NCAA board of directors next October and be in place for the semifinals and championship game next season.

"We believe this is something we should have addressed [before the first playoff games]," Smith said. "But we didn't, so we're doing it now."

In mid-December, several parents of Ohio State players expressed their frustration with the high cost of traveling to New Orleans for the Buckeyes' semifinal game against Alabama. Those same families now have to find a way to get to Arlington, Texas, for the College Football Playoff National Championship Presented by AT&T.

Schools are allowed to reimburse families a maximum of $800 out of their student-assistance fund to help with travel. Ohio State has budgeted for each of its 85 scholarship players' families to receive that $800, Smith said, but he added it's hardly enough to cover flights, hotels and other expenses for two games.

Smith said he would like to see a model for players' families to receive a stipend from the playoff, not from individual schools. And host sites for the semifinal and title game could have hotels reserved for families only.

The playoff is generating more than $600 million annually in TV revenue and will dole out about $50 million to each Power 5 conference.

"No doubt, the playoff has enough money," Smith said. "I really don't see the dollars as an issue. That's why we should do it."

He also said he's concerned that the high costs of travel could lead to families taking impermissible benefits to see their sons play.

"Of course we are worried about that," he said. "We're worried about agents entering those decisions. We worry about all of those things. That's why us handling it, or the playoff handling it, helps address some of those issues."

Smith said he has yet to talk to many other athletic directors about his plan but noted that such discussions have come up before in regards to the men's basketball tournament. While new NCAA autonomy measures allow Power 5 conference schools to write many of their own rules and provide players more benefits, he said he thinks Group of 5 schools would also have to sign off because they receive a share of playoff money.

"Some people will be philosophically opposed to it," he said, "because whatever funding exists, if it comes off the top, that means less money goes to your school, your school and your school. So we have to figure out how to frame it the right way."

Following his team's win over Alabama, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said "there should be an immediate committee meeting somewhere" about how to get families to the championship game.