The Plane Truth: the University of Minnesota needs to give Richard Pitino a bigger travel budget

It’s no real secret that the University of Minnesota’s men’s basketball program really hasn’t lifted off under the tutelage of Richard Pitino. It’s widely known that the players that have graced Dinkytown during Pitino’s reign haven’t exactly been the best characters in the world with PR nightmares ranging from sex tapes on social media to an arrest for sexual assault. All of those are big problems, Richard Pitino’s travel expenses, and apparent overages on them, are not a problem.

Pitino’s travel expenses were thrown into the spotlight via the Star Tribune when it was revealed that the young coach had gone past his budgeted $150,000 over the past two fiscal years and had actually spent $325,000 over that span.

First of all, this overspending was approved by then-current Athletic Director Norwood Teague. Can you really overspend your budget when it is approved by your superior? Sure, that superior is a creep and is gone from the University now, but you can’t change the game on Pitino after the game was played.

Second, there is no real reason the University needs to be looking at the books of the athletic department. Athletics are self-funded, they spend the money that they make, and, to the best of my knowledge, are not taking money from the rest of the school. They are basically a standalone entity using the name of the school and its students to run itself. As long as the department isn’t stealing money from academic departments and is still operating at a sustainable level, President Eric Kaler and the Board of Regents should get their nosy noses out of athletics’ business. The nosy-ness probably comes from the hire of Teague and his later dismissal, but this is what happens when you hire an AD that had never overseen a football team before. That hire wasn’t a smart big boy move in a school that should be with the big boys.

Speaking of which, this paragraph is integral in the Star Tribune story:

“Elsewhere, other coaches have bigger private jet budgets. Rick Pitino, Richard’s father and the coach at Louisville, has a reported annual budget of $250,000 for private jet travel. At Kentucky, John Calipari spent more than $342,000 in 2013-14. In the Big Ten, Indiana spent $569,000 on chartered planes for all of its coaches to recruit that year. At Ohio State, Thad Matta is given a budget of $65,000 or roughly 11 hours, for recruiting, as well as an additional 15 hours of jet time for private use.”

His father has four times the budget at Louisville. Conference rival Indiana has over 11 times the budget. Thad Matta at Ohio State has well over double the budget if you factor in the private use hours. If you want to play with the big boys, the $50,000 budget that Pitino has isn’t going to get you anywhere close to the best schools in the country or, more importantly, close to the recruits you need to be successful. Hell, these other schools probably hire someone to fill up their head coaches’ rental car gas tanks, too. Pitino was flagged in the audit for returning rental cars without a full gas tank.

Pitino has this team in a mess, but his overuse of private plans isn’t a problem. The real plain plane problem is the lack of a reasonable travel budget for the head coach of a profitable sport at a Division One school.

Mark Coyle has more than enough on his plate as the new AD of the Gophers, but he should be adjusting the private plane budget before his new business cards are even made. The next basketball coach will greatly enjoy the added privilege if Pitino leads the Gophers to 8-23 again.

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The Minnesota Sports Attitude Has To Stop

The infamous weeping blondes. Picture via: http://stmedia.startribune.com/images/900*619/7patr1221.jpg
The infamous weeping blondes. Picture via: http://stmedia.startribune.com/images/900*619/7patr1221.jpg

David Ortiz taunted us. Not even on the baseball diamond or even about baseball. Big Papi taunted the Minnesota sports fan about basketball on Twitter. The former Twins first baseman/DH turned Boston Red Sox DH took time out of his feud with Tampa Bay Rays ace David Price to troll the seemingly helpless Minnesotan. Oh, how far we have fallen.

As we open up June in the state of Minnesota, a couple storylines run wild amongst the rubes: how horrible Joe Mauer looks and what in the world is going to happen to Kevin Love. The faces of the Target Plaza franchises are currently the talking points and points that aren’t exactly good for them personally or for their current franchise.

It’s been ten years since the Minnesota Timberwolves were in the NBA Playoffs. Never say never, but it will more than likely be a four or five year absence before the Minnesota Twins return to play in the MLB playoffs. Hell, the Vikings look to be in a rebuilding year, so we might as well throw that in here, too. This is our outlook. Our very Minnesotan piss poor outlook.

We ignore the Golden Gophers winning the NIT tournament despite it being Richard Pitino’s first year as coach. We ignore Jerry Kill getting the Gophers back to bowl games and building back up what Tim Brewster tore to the ground. We ignore the fact that the Minnesota Wild won a playoff series, their first in ten years. We ignore the Minnesota Lynx who have been to the WNBA Finals three years in a row, won two of them if you hadn’t noticed, and are the only undefeated team in the association in 2014. Snap out of this crappy attitude people.

It’s sports. The ball won’t always bounce your way if we want to be cliché, but there’s no reason to have this poor, poor pitiful me attitude about the sports teams in this state. Success ebbs and flows. Not that long ago, the Twins were winning division championships, the Timberwolves were making the playoffs every year and the Vikings had a boatload… of talent.

The Wild will win a Stanley Cup sooner than later, they are way too young and talented not to. The Twins have Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano and a field of dreams of prospects coming up the pipeline that we lead this team to the playoffs again. Give it a couple years of fermentation and a couple years of Aaron Rodgers getting older, the Vikings will probably see the top of the NFC North soon enough. If the Timberwolves pull off the Kevin Love trade right, they should be setting themselves up for success sooner than later as well.

Has it been a longer valley of defeat than most, God, I hope so, but let’s stop being an easy stomping ground for Big Papi slam tweets. It’s hard to imagine, but maybe one day the Twin Cities can steal the hashtag Ortiz used and claim themselves to be: #CitiesofChampions.