Oklahoma State to examine travel rules

Updated: November 20, 2011, 9:01 PM ET
Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahoma State University officials will examine the school's travel policy in the wake of a plane crash that killed women's basketball coach Kurt Budke, an assistant coach and two other people in central Arkansas, a spokesman said Sunday.

"Certainly, it's a little early, we're still kind of recovering from this, but we'll certainly look at the policy," university spokesman Gary Shutt said. "Any time you have a terrible accident like this, definitely you look at the policy."

A memorial service is scheduled for 1 p.m. Monday at Gallagher-Iba Arena for Budke, 50, assistant coach Miranda Serna, 36, and the others who died in Thursday's crash. Organizers were working to finalize plans Sunday.

The two coaches were killed when the plane they were riding in crashed into a wooded hillside in central Arkansas. The pilot, Olin Branstetter, 82, and his wife, Paula, 79, also died.

Budke and Serna's deaths come more than 10 years after two men's basketball players and eight others associated with the program were killed in a January 2001 plane crash in Colorado. Changes were made to the travel policy, including rules requiring two pilots to be on board for all OSU travel involving student athletes and aircraft to be powered by two or more turbine engines.

"It does not apply to recruiting trips for coaches," who were allowed to make travel arrangements at their own discretion, Shutt said.

Budke and Serna were flying to Little Rock to watch two prospective recruits play in a game, two days before the Cowgirls were scheduled to play two weekend games, Shutt said.

"Obviously the high school season coincides with the college season, so if you want to go see players you need to have the flexibility and ability to make quick trips," Shutt said.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash, already has ruled out weather as a factor. A spokesman didn't immediately return calls and emails seeking comment on Sunday.

According to Federal Aviation Administration records, Branstetter passed a medical examination, was certified to be a commercial pilot and was flight-instrument rated.

"Every pilot, regardless of age, is required to have a medical exam a minimum of every two years, and every pilot must also do a check ride with a certified instructor every two years," FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford said. "That means you have to both prove that you're medically fit to fly, as well as ride with someone who can sign off on your abilities to handle the duties that come with being a pilot."

Shutt said it was his understanding that Branstetter hadn't taken coaches on any other flights before Thursday's crash. Branstetter, a former state senator, was an Oklahoma State University alumnus and donated to scholarships at the school, Shutt said.

Meanwhile, the Cowgirls' participated in a light practice on Saturday, Shutt said. The Cowgirls were scheduled to play Grambling State on Saturday and Texas-Arlington on Sunday, but those games were canceled.

Associate head coach Jim Littell has been named interim head coach. The next game is set for this coming Saturday.

"The intent is to resume the season at some point," Shutt said. "(Team officials) will assess things and move forward as quickly as they can."


Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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