By Jim Henry

jhenry@joplinglobe.com

In a move that is saving approximately $8,000-$10,000, Missouri Southern’s men’s and women’s basketball teams are traveling together instead of taking separate busses to their MIAA road games.

The decision was part of the cost-cutting measures announced Thursday by university president Bruce Speck that included eliminating the men’s soccer program.

The teams began traveling together with the Dec. 29 trip to Southwest Baptist.

One-day trips force the men’s team to leave two hours earlier than in the past and to wait while the women’s players eat their pregame meal. The men’s pregame meal comes after the women are taken to the arena.

“The time schedule for eating is critical when you’re preparing to play a game,” women’s head coach Maryann Mitts said. “You want to eat 31/2 to 4 hours before your game.”

The women’s team, instead of leaving at halftime of the men’s game or quicker on the longer trips, now gets home a minimum of two hours later.

“It’s unfortunate that this is what it’s come to,” men’s head coach Robert Corn said. “It’s a fact. It’s something we have to deal with. It’s the way it is.”

“The logistics of pregame meals, arriving at the arena at the right time, and when you’re on an overnight trip, working in a shootaround ... it takes a lot of cooperation,” MSSU athletics director Sallie Beard said.

Another factor in overnight trips is the bus driver’s hours. Under Department of Transportation regulations, a driver can be on call only for a 15-hour window, and he can drive for only 10 of those hours.

“The logistics of it, there are issues,” Mitts said, “but the reasons behind it, Maryann Mitts does not have an issue. What happened (Thursday) is so disheartening to me, to see two quality coaches, two tremendous people have their lives uprooted. When you look at the number of student-athletes who may never play another college soccer game, that’s the focus today. Comfort on a bus or getting home two hours later means little when people in your own building have their lives affected dramatically.

“My message to my team (Thursday) was be appreciative of what you have. ... I know there are a number of soccer players who would love to have another two-hour practice or play one more collegiate soccer game.”

Around the MIAA

Southwest Baptist and Truman State are the only other MIAA schools that send their two basketball teams on one bus.

Washburn and Nebraska-Omaha travel both together and separately, depending on distance. But UNO men’s coach Darrin Hansen said the Mavericks will travel separately for next month’s mid-week game at Missouri Southern “so the women can get back sooner.”

Fort Hays State teams are traveling separately for the first time this year after the school purchased a second 25-passenger bus.

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