Student athletes in sanctioned sports receive a lot of benefits. If they are lucky, they get a scholarship to pay for their tuition, their books, and their rent. Not only do they play on a field or a court that the university owns, anytime the team plays in the post-season that travel is taken care of also.
This isn’t the same case when it comes to club sports. Instead of receiving benefits to play the sport, those athletes largely have to pay their own way. These club sports do receive some support from the university, but not enough to sustain the team. And if that team is good enough and lucky enough to participate in a post-season, the student-athletes have to come up with extra money to help get them there.
That’s how it is with Utah State University’s club hockey team. The 25 student athletes have already paid their $1200 each to participate this season. Now, the Aggies are headed to nationals in West Chester, Pennsylvania.
“We try to have it as minimal cost as possible,” says head coach Jon Eccles. “But the total cost of getting out there – and that includes ground transportation, air fare, luggage, hotels, meals for the boys – is close to $30,000.”
Eccles says the team tries to be optimistic that they will be in a position to make it to nationals every year, but the trip isn’t necessarily a part of the team’s annual budget.
“You try to budget that, you try to have a good season,” he continues. “The fans have been great this year attending the games but still our budget, our costs this season, were close to $90,000 with travel and renting ice. On top of that you add nationals and it can be another $25,000-$35,000 depending on where you’re going.”
Eccles says since the Aggies qualified for the national tournament, his players have been out in the community trying to raise the extra funds.
“The university helps out some, we’ve had some meetings with the student council,” adds Eccles. “We go out into the community and talk to businesses. We’ve had donations from businesses helping out; we have had personal fans write checks to help out.
“All of that money goes just for that nationals trip to help us out. It’s been a big help. We’ve had some great sponsors in the community step up and help us, and they’ve done it for a lot of other sports.”
For those who would like to contribute, they can <a href=”https://campusrec.abilafundraisingonline.com/campusrecallocations” target=”_blank”>make donations online</a> or can contact Eccles directly at (435) 512-9250.
The Aggies finished their season with 22 wins, 11 losses and two ties. They won their regional tournament and qualified to be one of 16 teams (out of a total of 225 in Division II) headed to the national tournament in Pennsylvania.
The tournament itself will be a challenge for the Aggies. To win, they will need to win five games in five days. Pool play begins on March 18th and continues through March 20th. There are four teams in four pools. If the Aggies win their pool (which is comprised of Grand Valley State, Penn State and New York University) they will play in the semifinal game on March 21st. The championship game is March 22nd.
Eccles says while it’s a financial burden to go, it is still a reward for his team for working hard all year.
“We are excited about the opportunity to go out there and represent Utah State University. The guys are really excited. They always go out there to do their very best. It will be a good challenge.”
He also says it is an honor to not only represent the school, but club sports overall at USU.
“We’ve had a ton of club sports do well and make it out to regionals and nationals. It’s a testament to those student-athletes who don’t get the perks like the others on the varsity level, but for these guys it’s an awesome opportunity.”