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Plane deficit may impact NCAA stays

College basketball coaches heading to the NCAA tournament this year might want to pack their Fodor's Guides along with their whiteboards.

Due to what the NCAA says is a shortage of charter aircraft, losing teams might be sticking around up to a full extra day before flying back to campus.

Last week, the NCAA sent a memo to all men's and women's teams alerting them to potential doomsday scenarios that could come into play, especially during the first weekend of games.

The sheer number of teams that need to be moved -- exacerbated in 2015 because the women's tournament moved its opening day to Friday, coinciding with the second day of the men's tourney -- and the lack of planes simply don't add up.

Consequently, the women's teams have been told that if they play Friday, they should be prepared to leave as late as 10 p.m. Wednesday, or if they prefer to leave a day earlier, as late as 10 p.m. Tuesday.

On the men's side, any team that loses in a game that tips before 3 p.m. will travel home the same day -- departing as early as seven hours after the start of the game and as late as 10 p.m.

Any team that loses in a game that begins after 3 p.m. will spend an extra night in the subregional city and could depart as late as 10 p.m. the next day. The NCAA would pick up the hotel tab for the additional night plus supply an additional per diem.

"The intent of the memo and the communication is to try and change and reset expectations," said Dan Gavitt, NCAA vice president of the men's basketball championship. "We have situations where we can't get a team back to campus as late as 10 the next night, but the alternative is that we cheapen the experience for the student-athletes by rushing them out the door."

That's exactly what happened last year.

New Mexico State lost to San Diego State in overtime in a game in Spokane, Washington, and was practically rushed out of town like a bunch of bandits. The team had only a short time to return to the hotel, check out, grab dinner boxes and head to the airport. The Aggies departed at 2:15 a.m., landing in El Paso, Texas, at 7 a.m. To add insult to injury, there was just one bus waiting when they arrived in El Paso for the two-plus hour ride to the Las Cruces campus. Some members of the travel party had to wait on the bus to return.

"It's disgraceful," San Diego State coach Steve Fisher said in his postgame news conference.

The NCAA later apologized for the problems, citing a lack of available aircraft.

That fiasco and a handful of others prompted immediate conversations between the NCAA and National Association of Basketball Coaches. Gavitt said they have exhausted every possible avenue to find more planes but the industry is at a 15-year low. The memo to coaches says the NCAA uses between 10 and 15 aircraft for the men's and women's tournaments combined.

Since the NCAA can't change the inventory, it wants coaches to be forewarned.

"We don't have much of a choice," said Georgia State coach Ron Hunter, first vice president of the NABC. "But I think last year, it caught us all off guard, and that was the bigger problem. At least now we can plan ahead. If you know you're staying over, you can plan a dinner or something for your team the next day."

NCAA rules prohibit teams from using private planes from deep-pocketed boosters. Teams that play within 350 miles of a tournament site are to bus, although Gavitt does not expect to see a significant change in NCAA seeding based on location.