NEW ORLEANS, LA - MARCH 26: Matt Howard #54 of the Butler Bulldogs celebrates defeating the Florida Gators 74 to 71 in overtime by cutting down part of the net during the Southeast regional final of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at New Orleans Arena on March 26, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
In the wake of a pair of scathing stories pertaining to shady financial comings and goings involving high-profile college athletics, the story of Matt Howard's family trying to get to the Final Four stings to read that much more.
After Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay was denied a request by the NCAA to fly Howard's family (two parents and nine siblings) to Houston and pay their way into Reliant Stadium, Howard's hometown of Connersville, Indiana is coming together with donations as a way to get their town's most notable residents to the Lonestar State.
While all Final Four participants are given four tickets to each of the games, the rest of Howard's large immediate family is hoping their community can fit the bill for the rest of expenses needed for them to attend.
Thankfully, there has been no shortage of supporters from the town of 13,000 people.
As the NCAA turns a blind eye to money shakes and pay-to-play requests from both high profile college basketball and college football recruits, they remain steadfast in their efforts to not facilitate a way for a family to watch one of their own chase glory. That's a huge shame.
We've heard of many situations like this in the past, but it's still mind boggling to me why there isn't a loop hole that could be leveraged here, or that an Irsay-like figure is unable to step in and cover all costs to get the entire Howard family to Reliant Stadium.
In the wake of criticism following both a Frontline story and special edition of HBO's Real Sports, NCAA president Mark Emmert told the USA Today that he believes its time to explore options for college athletes to receive monetary compensation. That's a whole other can of worms to open up here on whether or not it's plausible, but at the very least the funding is available for situations like the Howard's, and it should be for all athletes fortunate enough to be part of something as special as the Final Four.
The current CBS/Turner Sports TV rights deal for the NCAA Tournament gives Emmert and the rest of his suits $771 million to fund other, less profitable Division I championships. I'm no math major, and I don't have the NCAA's balance sheet in front of me, but I am going to think that there's no reason a small portion of that can't be allocated to student-athlete travel expenses.
This would allow the family's of players the opportunity to enjoy things like the Final Four live and in person, and prevent the selfless people of Connorsville from having to eagerly step up and donate a bit of their paycheck.