Costly trips for North Central’s championship runs

ESCANABA — The North Central boys basketball team’s undefeated streak and state titles have been well documented over the years.

What people don’t realize is what it costs for the team to take a five-day trip that includes the state quarterfinals, semifinals, and championship game.

The Jets left March 21 for Sault Ste. Marie where they faced Hillman in the Wednesday state quarterfinal matchup before heading to East Lansing for the Thursday semifinal against Southfield Christian and the Saturday championship game against Buckley.

North Central athletic director Joey Pontbriand said it cost North Central $15,091.84 to take the five-day trip. The Michigan High School Athletic Association covers about 35 percent of those expenses, Pontbriand said.

North Central paid for the trip out of the school budget, but also utilized some fund-raising that included pledges organized by Luft’s Advertiser and T-shirt sales.

The Jets have been state champs in basketball the past three years with a nation-leading 83-game win steak and in football the past two years.

The cost and reimbursement have remained steady for the Jets the past few years they made the trip for both basketball and two state football title runs to Greenville.

The MHSAA does reimburse teams for their trips which includes partial mileage and partial lodging and a small food stipend.

“It all depends on where you stay and the proximity of where you’re playing,” said Pontbriand. “There are some parameters to be able to qualify for that stuff. We usually do. The last two years with football and basketball we have.”

John Johnson, Communications Director for the Michigan High School Athletic Association, provided a formula for reimbursement for teams competing during tournament time.

“It’s not cheap,” said Johnson. “It depends on your mode of transportation and how you eat on the road. There is a difference between a school bus and a charter bus.”

Teams will receive travel reimbursement if the trip is 76 or more miles away. The low end is $1 per mile if the trip is between 76 and 100 miles. The high end would be $3 per mile if the trip is 351 miles or more.

North Central traveled 195 miles to Sault Ste. Marie for its quarterfinal games for a reimbursement of $2 per mile. It then traveled 285 miles to East Lansing for a reimbursement of $2.50 per mile. From East Lansing back to Powers is 395 miles for a reimbursement of $3 per mile.

That would set the Jets reimbursement at $2,287.5 for their mileage expenses.

Those schools which travel 100 or more miles one way to a tournament center are allowed $200 for hotel expenses. This applies to the district and regional tournaments. This did not apply to the Jets as they did not stay overnight during the district or regional tournaments.

There are additional reimbursement options for teams that reach championship week for the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals.

The hotel cost is paid during championship week by the MHSAA for up to 15 people, with the schools covering the difference.

A meal stipend is also given to participating teams which is $13 per day per person. This includes $3 for breakfast, $4 for lunch and $6 for dinner per person for up to 15 people.

In addition to those allowances schools competing in the state tournament are paid $100 for each day the team plays in quarterfinal, semifinal, and final games. North Central was reimbursed an additional $100 for Wednesday as it was an Upper Peninsula team that did not return home after its quarterfinal game.

“These are formulas that have been on the books for a long time,” said Johnson. “Obviously when you’re in a position like North Central and you’re a long way from a tournament center and you have a lot of success you’re going to have to do some creative things from the fundraising position to cover some of your travel.”