By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
Sending the men’s basketball team to Europe will cost Mississippi State a nice chunk of change, but the thinking is that the benefits will be well worth it.
The Bulldogs’ week-long, five-game exhibition tour through Amsterdam, Belgium and Paris (Aug. 7-13) will cost the school about $150,000, according to executive associate athletics director Duncan McKenzie. Approximately $120,000 of that covers travel and lodging, via Basketball Travelers, Inc., the promoter that puts together such tours as this.
The other $30,000 will feed the players, coaches and other team personnel. Between 27 and 30 people will make the trip, according to a team spokesman.
“No. 1, you get the extra practice opportunities and extra playing opportunities. That’s always valuable as much as coaches are limited on how much time coaching they can do with their teams, in all sports,” athletics director Scott Stricklin said.
Basketball coaches are normally not allowed to have contact with players from season’s end until August, when they can do skill instruction with four players at a time. Formal preseason practices begin Oct. 14.
The NCAA allows for 10 days of practice prior to a foreign tour, and so the Bulldogs are in the middle of their European preparation. The team departs Friday.
The cost of the trip comes out of the basketball program’s budget, which for the 2011-12 fiscal year is $3,039,812. Europe was built into this year’s basketball budget request.
Such a request warrants close scrutiny, but Stricklin said a less ambitious non-conference schedule this season gave MSU some financial wiggle room. In the past two years alone, the Bulldogs have played games in San Diego; Anaheim, Calif.; the Bahamas; Las Vegas; and Hawaii.
The farthest MSU will travel this season is New York City (960 miles from Starkville), for two games in the 2K Classic.
“Any time you have that kind of cost out of the budget, you want to make sure you’re doing it in the most cost-effective way possible,” Stricklin said. “We work really hard at being good stewards of our money, our resources. This is not something that you do just to say you’re doing it.
“I think there’s a tangible benefit.”