Urban Meyer is lobbying for families to be sent to the championship game, too

COLUMBUS  When Ohio State boarded a private 747 jet with two levels, 350 seats and 15 flight attendants, the players, coaches and coaches’ families traveled to New Orleans in style.

Urban Meyer could have afforded to send his family there on a private plane. He will make upwards of $4.5 million this season.

And Meyer is keenly aware of the plight of his players’ families. While Ohio State earned $18 million for the Big Ten by going to Sugar Bowl, and will earn many millions more since ESPN has committed $610 million for the broadcast rights to the College Football Playoff games, parents of players are on their own to get to Dallas for the CFP National Championship Game.

That doesn’t sit well with Meyer. Meyer has been lobbying for the NCAA and Big Ten to take care of players’ families since this summer. He made reference to the fact that his family, as well as family members of Ohio State administrators, travel to bowl games free of charge. The people who can afford the travel most, don’t have to pay for it.

The families of players, often times those who can’t afford the added expense around the holiday, have to find a way to pay for it without breaking NCAA rules.

“Something has got to be done,” Meyer said.

Ohio State asked, and the Big Ten permitted, the school to give each family an $800 allowance for travel to New Orleans. That would have covered the cost of one plane ticket and maybe a night in a hotel.

“What are we doing for these guys and their families? They have to go one more week,” Meyer said, looking at Darron Lee and Ezekiel Elliott, his two MVPs of the Sugar Bowl. “Are we going to get their families to Dallas? We should. That should happen immediately.

“There should be an immediate committee meeting somewhere so we can get these families to Dallas and watch their sons play in college football history. I hope you all write that. That’s more important than anything else being said today.”

Meyer made those comments when his stage was the largest. It was during his postgame press conference after beating No. 1-ranked Alabama to get to the College Football Championship.

“I have always been in agreement with coach Meyer. I wish we could help the families of players more than we currently can," Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said. "I will initiate NCAA legislation to allow us to provide more financial assistance in the future for postseason trips."

Unless something changes in the coming days, there does not appear to be any relief in sight. Annie Apple, the mother of Buckeye cornerback Eli Apple, has been one of the most vocal critics of the NCAA.

She drove to New Orleans and tweeted about her adventure of getting there. On Saturday, she took to Twitter to suggest a fund-raising campaign via Go Fund Me. That would be an NCAA violation because family members of players are not permitted to receive extra benefits.

The frustration level is reaching a boiling point, though. Players’ families would have had to travel to Indianapolis, New Orleans and now Dallas to watch their sons play. Those are expenses right before and right after the holidays.

Meyer understands their pain, and even offered to pay for it himself.

Throughout his career, Meyer has compared coaching a football game to playing checkers and the players are his checkers.

“It’s all about the checkers,” Meyer said. “That’s why we have to get the checkers’ families to Dallas to watch them play. Checkers are valuable things, man. I got two very talented checkers next to me (Elliott and Lee).

“The guy moving the pieces is a fortunate guy that wakes up every morning and is very grateful for the opportunities given to him.”

Reach Todd at 330-580-8340 or todd.porter@cantonrep.com
On Twitter: @toddporter