Travel Stipends for NCAA Final Fours and College Football Playoff a Huge Success

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Last year, the NCAA did something unprecedented: they approved a pilot program to provide travel stipends to the parents or guardians of men’s and women’s basketball student athletes participating in the Final Four (up to $3,000 per student athlete) and National Championship (an additional $1,000 per student athlete).

The program also authorized the College Football Playoff to provide up to $3,000 per student athlete for the College Football Playoff National Championship, although the CFP ultimately adopted a $2,500 per student athlete stipend program.

Men’s and women’s basketball travel stipends

A month ago, the NCAA announced it would be extending the program for men’s and women’s basketball for a year, and then Tuesday the College Football Playoff followed suit and extended its program for another year. The College Football Playoff also decided to expand its program, offering an additional $2,500 for each student athlete participating in the semifinal games this season.

Based on roster size, the NCAA’s implementation of the program involves distributing $45,000 to each Final Four team and an additional $15,000 to each team in the championship game. Schools are then free to distribute the funds as they see fit.

I polled the eight programs who participated in the men’s and women’s Final Four last year to find out how they distributed funds. All four men’s basketball programs — Duke, Kentucky, Michigan State and Wisconsin — distributed funds in essentially the same way: student athletes gave the names of family attending the game, and then family members picked up their checks either at the team hotel or on-site at the game to verify they were in fact attending the game.

A couple of the women’s basketball programs administered the program a little differently. Connecticut required family members who were applying for the travel stipend to fill out vendor forms, and then the school cut checks within 30 days of the Final Four.

South Carolina had the biggest departure from the others. The Gamecocks used a portion of the travel stipend to pay for hotel rooms for the family members so they could stay at the same team as the hotel. The remaining funds were issued to the family members by check when they picked up their Final Four tickets on-site.

College Football Playoff travel stipends

Instead of sending funds directly to the schools, like the NCAA, the CFP sent the funds to the conferences, who then worked with the schools to allocate the funds.

Ohio State distributed lump sums to parents and guardians after the game by verifying they had signed in for their complimentary admission to the game and then having them fill out a vendor form to have their check issued.

Oregon chose to do things a little differently. They required receipts from the travel and then reimbursed following general university protocols. However, the Ducks say in the future they would distribute lump sums to parents and guardians who attend the game to make the process easier for everyone.

Chalk it up as a success

The NCAA tells me no funds were returned from the eight schools who participated in the men’s and women’s Final Four and championship games last season, meaning every student athlete had at least one family member take advantage of the travel stipend.

For the CFP, the stipend was available for 100 student athletes from each program. Oregon says 95 student athlete families were reimbursed, and Ohio State says 87 of their student athletes had family take advantage of the program. Pretty amazing numbers considering the stipend was announced just days before the game.

Similar to the NCAA’s program, the CFP does require any unused funds be returned.


Written by Kristi Dosh