OSU officials announce new team travel rules

Wednesday, April 24th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) _ An airplane crash that killed 10 people associated with Oklahoma State University's basketball program has led the school to ban use of donated aircraft under a travel policy that's intended to set a national standard.

The policy unveiled Wednesday states that basketball coach Eddie Sutton will no longer be responsible for arranging transportation for basketball outings. Nonstudent personnel such as coaches and coaching assistants would be allowed to fly on donated planes.

The new policy would give coaches the right to prevent a flight due to bad weather even if the pilot is willing to take off.

Also, the university plans to hire an aviation consultant to evaluate plane maintenance and pilot qualifications.

Officials estimate the changes in team travel will cost an additional $200,000 to $250,000.

``I can't recall any national effort to produce an all-encompassing policy to help guide other universities as they develop their team travel policies,'' athletic director Terry Don Phillips said at a news conference.

The comprehensive policy covers all 18 sports teams at OSU, plus mascots, spirit squads, trainers and managers and all modes of transportation.

Ten people associated with the school's basketball program were killed on Jan. 27, 2001, when a turboprop plane carrying them home from a game fell from the sky and broke apart over a field near Byers, Colo.

A 17-member travel task force of OSU student athletes, faculty, administrators, alumni and family members of the crash victims spent six months drafting the plan.

Harry Birdwell, OSU's vice president for business and external relations, said the task force surveyed the team travel policies of 70 Division-I schools in six national conferences to help develop their policy.

``It's standards are high, specific, relevant and achievable,'' Birdwell said.

OSU had been among a few Big 12 schools that operated their varsity sports programs without an official travel policy and was apparently the only school that allowed student athletes to travel on planes donated by boosters.

``I prayed about having some kind of mission that could help those 10 men,'' said Zane Fleming, whose 21-year-old son Nate died in the he crash. ``I believe that with this policy we have helped them. I'm upbeat about it.''

In addition to Fleming, those killed in the crash were player Dan Lawson, publicist Will Hancock, trainer Brian Luinstra, manager Jared Weiberg, director of basketball operations Pat Noyes, play-by-play announcer Bill Teegins, radio engineer Kendall Durfey, and pilots Denver Mills and Bjorn Fahlstrom.

Lawson's mother Phyllis said that although the new policy is a step in the right direction, she wishes OSU would have drafted the rules years ago.

``They get enough money to not cut corners like they did,'' said Lawson, at her home in Detroit. ``The players shouldn't have been put in that position.''

The 25-year-old Beechcraft KingAir 200 the team was traveling on had a history of electrical and mechanical problems, according to published reports.

``Dan would always complain about traveling on those propellor-type planes,'' said Lawson, who filed a claim with relatives last June accusing OSU of negligence. ``A lot of times, it would take him hours to get those jitters out of his system after the plane landed.''

The crash is still being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board.

A final crash report is nearing conclusion, but the events of Sept. 11 and the crash in November of an American Airlines Airbus in New York have delayed its completion, said Paul Schlamm, NTSB spokesman.