After the men’s basketball team’s Elite Eight victory over Purdue March 30, 600 dedicated student fans began preparations to make the trek to Minneapolis, Minn. to support the team in Saturday’s Final Four game. The team proceeded to win Saturday’s game against Auburn, and students who purchased the $40 student ticket for the Final Four game were given free tickets to Monday night’s national championship game against Texas Tech — which the Cavaliers won for the first time in program history. Standing between the students and the tournament, however, was an 18-hour drive to Minneapolis or costly flight tickets while missing at least two days of missed classes.
An email from Virginia Athletics sent April 1 said students would be responsible for their own travel and accommodations, should they choose to purchase a student ticket — which were awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. According to an email statement from Dean of Students Allen Groves, a survey conducted by the Office of Dean of Students’ Student Engagement staff gauged that of the 600 students who obtained the allotted student section tickets, half of them were interested in the University providing a charter bus as transportation.
“We heard from a number of students and parents asking if UVA might be able to offer one or more charter buses to carry students to Minneapolis for the Final Four,” Groves said. “We were mindful of the fact some students might not be able to afford an airplane ticket on such short notice.”
Flight tickets to Minneapolis from Charlottesville typically cost around $200 to $500, but this weekend were upwards of $700 round trip. According to a tweet from Groves last Friday, the Seven Society donated $7,777.77 toward the cost of a charter bus to transport students to Minneapolis for Saturday’s Final Four game. Groves told The Cavalier Daily the total cost of a single charter bus for Friday through Tuesday, including accommodations for the driver, came to around $20,000.
Groves said the cost of students’ bus tickets was kept affordable but that not as many students signed up as anticipated, and he added that the remaining cost of the bus was covered by the President’s office and the Student Affairs Division.
“We charged students who chose to ride the bus $150 in order to keep the option affordable, and 35 ultimately signed up and rode it, resulting in a $5,250 contribution by students who paid,” Groves said. “We had expected closer to 50 students, which is the capacity of the bus.”
Some students who made the trip to Minneapolis said they appreciated that the University offered the bus service, but that the opportunity was not presented until after their travel plans were already finalized. Second-year Architecture student Summer Harding said she was initially hoping the University would offer transportation to assist students but arranged to fly up using the convenience of travel points before the bus was officially offered.
“Unfortunately we didn’t know about it until Thursday afternoon, and a lot of kids had already made plans by that point, because they sent out a survey about interest, but it was a little bit late when they actually got it together to go with that option,” Harding said. “But I think it was a really affordable and good option for the people who were able to do that.”
First-year College student Kieland Chandler said she almost ruled out going to the game, because as a first-year, she doesn’t have access to a car. Chandler didn’t decide to get a ticket until she found a ride with upperclassmen.
“I got that email about the charter bus, and luckily, I had already worked out my plans, but it’s definitely something I would have considered if I didn’t already have a ride,” Chandler said. “So I thought it was great that they provided that.”
In an email sent to the University community Monday afternoon, Groves announced that the University Provost decided not to alter the academic schedule in light of Monday night’s championship game.
“One of the things that makes UVA special is its uncompromised commitment to excellence in academics and athletics,” Groves wrote in a University-wide email Monday. “There is no better way to support our values and our true student-athletes than to cheer for them on the court, on the field, and on the water, and return to Grounds the next morning ready to contribute in the classroom.”
Students who attended the games had reached out to professors and explained their situation to varying degrees of understanding.
“I’m missing a lot of class which has been hard,” Chandler said. “But I emailed my professors and let them know I wouldn’t be there, and a lot of them were like, ‘Yeah OK, that’s fine, have a great time, but it’s also not excused.’”
Second-year Engineering student Sam Kim drove to Minneapolis for the games as well and happens to be missing an exam on Tuesday. His professor is allowing him to take the test at a later date but with a ten percent deduction. Kim said that he was willing to make the sacrifice and miss the exams, but he said professors and the University should be more understanding of this situation.
“If students are in Minnesota, give us some grace about our exams, because we’re cheering for our team,” Kim said.