Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Family Fun: NCAA pays family travel expenses for Final Four participants

De Sousa, Mykhailiuk's parents headed to San Antonio

Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa (22) pumps his fists as the Jayhawks begin to solidify the victory during overtime, Sunday, March 25, 2018 at CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb.

Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa (22) pumps his fists as the Jayhawks begin to solidify the victory during overtime, Sunday, March 25, 2018 at CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb.


As special it is to play in his first Final Four this week, it’s just as meaningful to Kansas freshman forward Silvio De Sousa that his parents will be in attendance for the first time in his collegiate career.

Helped by an NCAA program that will pay for families to travel to the Final Four, De Sousa’s parents will make the 15-hour flight from Angola to the United States to watch De Sousa play on college’s basketball biggest stage. He said it’ll be the first time he’s seen them in about a year.

Before the start of the Sweet 16, De Sousa told his mom that he wanted to bring her to the Final Four if they won their next two games. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk said his parents will likely leave Ukraine on Thursday, arriving one day ahead of KU’s Final Four game against Villanova at 7:49 p.m. Saturday in San Antonio.

“I’m just super excited for them to come over here and just be with them,” De Sousa said.

Udoka Azubuike is hopeful that his mother can attend the Final Four from Nigeria, but Kansas coach Bill Self said the school is trying to work through “visa complications.”

“She always dreamed about coming,” Azubuike said. “She’s never seen me play before. That would be nice to see her come over and watch me play.”

Self added: “Everybody is working hard. Our staff is talking with all the proper political people to try to make something like that happen because we know how much that would mean to Udoka and his mother.”

The NCAA started a pilot program in 2015 to help cover expenses for players’ families traveling to the men’s and women’s Final Four. The NCAA will pay up to $3,000 total in travel, hotel and meal expenses for each student-athlete who competes in the national semifinal game and $4,000 for the national championship. The same program exists for football players in the College Football Playoff.

“Can you imagine a parent coming over here and has never seen a basketball game, a real basketball game like this, and that’s the first time you see your son play?” Self said. “That would just be an unbelievable experience.”

The Final Four is a new experience for KU players who didn’t grow up watching it on TV. Growing up in Ukraine, Mykhailiuk said the only Final Four he knew was in the Euroleague. His parents, who don’t speak much English, visited Allen Fieldhouse for their son’s Senior Night on Feb. 26.

The last time Azubuike visited Nigeria, he said most people “didn’t really know much about college basketball.” But De Sousa said his family has recognized his accomplishments when he’s talked to them on the phone.

“Every time I call my family just to talk to them, they always, always show me how much they are proud of me and how much they just love me,” De Sousa said. “I think they’re super proud of me.”

Playing high school basketball at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., De Sousa said he met friends but was lonely at times with the distance between his parents.

“Ever since I got to Kansas I feel like I have my family here,” De Sousa said. “I have not felt lonely since I got to Kansas.”

For players with families in the states or abroad, Self said it was a “great rule change” by the NCAA to help bring families together during the biggest games of their careers.

“I never knew that San Antonio was the most expensive place in America to fly into but it is right now,” Self said. “Tickets, you can’t get down there roundtrip for less than a $1,000 or $1,200 from Kansas City, so can you imagine what it would be like coming from Lagos (Nigeria) or from the Ukraine or from Angola. That’s pretty cool they are helping with that.”


Pius Waldman 4 years, 4 months ago

Well the NCAA is making a decision that is great for our out of country as well as USA athletes Sure hope Adoka gets to have his mother come.

Mike Riches 4 years, 4 months ago

This is a nice move by the NCAA. Of course this tournament pays for 98% of its operating expenses, so this is not going break the bank...

I'm thrilled that these guys' parents are going to get to see them play, some for the first time!

Mike Riches 4 years, 4 months ago

"The NCAA will pay up to $3,000 total in travel, hotel and meal expenses for each student-athlete who competes in the national semifinal game and $4,000 for the national championship."

How does that work? What if it costs $3,000 to get them over here and pay for their stay? I guess we'd better beat Villanova to pay for the trip back home!

Suzi Marshall 4 years, 4 months ago

Yea no kidding. $3 or 4k round trip, plus hotel and food is not going to get you much if the origination is Africa. Can the NCAA provide discounted hotel for $25 per night?

Jonathan Allison 4 years, 4 months ago

I don't really understand why traveling for the national championship game would cost more than traveling for the final four games?

And if they get the $3000 for travel for the final four games, do they get to stay for the title game? do they have to fly back home and then reapply? Or do they just get paid an additional $1000 to stay two days longer?

Seems like a weird policy, but I'm definitely glad that the NCAA is helping these families come see their kids play... there's no way that it even makes a dent in their bottom line.

Kent Richardson 4 years, 4 months ago

PR move by the NCAA. The NCAA and the schools make vast amounts of revenue off these players. Large percentages of players are from poor working class backgrounds whose families are living paycheck to paycheck and cant afford any extras or afford or be allowed to miss work. Nice to see it being done but masks the realities of the business.

Henry Joseph Hofmeister 4 years, 4 months ago

It would be nice if it was a set amount after airfare.

Marcia Parsons 4 years, 4 months ago

I think the difference between the amounts is that the $4,000 allows for an extra days. They are assuming everyone will come at least for Saturday and probably only families of the winners will stay for Monday. How much the families can chip in would dictate how many family members can come.

Brad Watson 4 years, 4 months ago

I am happy that Svis' parents will get to see it.....Hopefully Doks' mom can get there...and Silvios' parents as these kids!!....of all the rules the NCAA has....this is one...... I actually like a lot.....

David Robinett 4 years, 4 months ago

I feel like making a sarcastic remark about the NCAA but since they finally did something right, I won’t.

Eric Brunner 4 years, 4 months ago

You can totally offer a sarcastic remark. This policy has some MAJOR equity issues for students with family who need to travel from far away. Like Henry mentioned above, they should help the families book airfare first and then offer an equal amount for them to find lodging and food. I guarantee Lightfoot's family is spending a fraction of what our international players are going to spend to book airfare. It's a well-intentioned policy but equal treatment isn't always fair.

Michael Leiker 4 years, 4 months ago

Off topic but is the Doc Sadler intge background of this pic?

Eric Brunner 4 years, 4 months ago

Holy crap good call. Makes sense too, he and Self go way back

Steve Schoenekase 4 years, 4 months ago

I'll be in San Antonio this weekend to see the Hawks win it all. Dok's mom or Silvio's parents are welcome to stay with us... oh wait, THAT is a violation!. The NCAA doesn't allow a good Samaritan to help the family of a player, but the NCAA can make a token gesture and get lots of good publicity.

I wonder if the $3,000 includes a ticket to the games or do they have to pay for that on their own?

Bobby Nightengale 4 years, 4 months ago

I'm not 100% positive, but I believe players are given a few game tickets - maybe 4 or 6 - for their family members at each of their NCAA Tournament games.

Jonathan Allison 4 years, 4 months ago

Obviously the rules are there to prevent wealthy boosters and agents from making payments to students families in order to influence them one way or another. It seems that the NCAA could change the rules similar to political campaigns to allow individual fans to chip in small amounts in order to benefit the families of players, but of course that would create a situation where the bigger the fan base, the more cash could be contributed to a students family. I could see a way that it could be regulated in such a way that it doesn't create much of an uneven playing field in recruiting though.

I think that what would be much easier though would be for the NCAA to just allow the schools to provide travel expenses for players families for up to maybe 2 games per year or something along those lines. Then KU could, if they chose, have footed the bill for Svi's family to attend Sr. night as well as to attend the national semi-finals, but Svi's family would have to pay the difference in order to stay for the national finals if they choose.

Dave Miller 4 years, 4 months ago

Surely the NCAA could "partner up" with hotels, airlines, restaurants, etc. for discounts in exchange for preferred advertising. It would be a win-win for everyone involved.

Tony Bandle 4 years, 4 months ago

Nope.....too logical....too moral,,,,too unselfish...too classy!!!

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