As Joey Knight reported this morning, something is amiss about how someone could miss the Bulls’ connecting flight from Houston to Tampa. Here’s what we know:
Houston Hobby isn’t that big. This isn’t like you have to traipse through Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta and get on the “Plane Train” to get to your gate. All 30 gates at Hobby are in one terminal.
Here’s a map of Hobby:
And here are the FlightAware details for the flight in question, including the gates at the airport. The rest of the team arrived at Gate 43 and departed from Gate 49. Not exactly too far to get lost.
Flight 1881 from Tulsa landed at 9:46 a.m. CST, and it takes at least five minutes to get to the gate and de-plane. Boarding for Flight 766 began at 10:15 a.m. for a 10:45 a.m. departure (the flight took off one minute early). All on-time Southwest flights begin the boarding process 30 minutes before takeoff.
So did the players fall asleep on such a short layover? Is that even possible?
Also because there’s no assigned seating on Southwest, being in line on time means there’s less of a chance you get a middle seat, which likely matters to tall young men. So there’s incentive to be in the queue when your A, B, or C boarding pass is eligible to board.
But athletes get hungry. Did they need a Cinnabon run with their per diem??
From our sister site Eater.com, here’s a list of all the best restaurants at Hobby Airport. It looks like some good options, including some Mexican and BBQ joints in the central concourse food court that look tasty. Possible the guys ordered some food that took a bit longer than usual and couldn’t hear that they were being paged by Southwest?
Before their seats on a full flight were given away, they would have been paged multiple times before the doors closed for no more boarding. But anyone that’s traveled with any D1 college team in any sport ever knows that very large headphones, often with loud music, are a constant presence. Just because you’re paged, even in a tiny airport, doesn’t necessarily mean you hear it.
Some of those that were left behind could have volunteered to stay a few extra hours in Houston in exchange for compensation, generally between $200 and $800 in airline flight credit. Having done this myself voluntarily before, it’s great: they give you vouchers to get a bite to eat, and you hang out in the airport bar for a few hours while collecting some cash you can use to travel later.
Update: March 2nd 11:30am. Nope.
Can report both USF players did not receive any flight compensation from the airline to miss their plane.— Collin Sherwin (@USFCollin) March 2, 2017
What happened? We still don’t know. But we have filed a Texas Public Information Act request for video from the terminal. We’ve been advised that is projected to take a few weeks to clear bureaucratic hurdles by the folks at Hobby (who were quite lovely by the way), but we should get it eventually.
On the surface this sounds like a funny story. And as multiple USF staffers have pointed out to both Knight and I off the record, abandoned in an airport with per diem money for a few hours is hardly a human tragedy.
But the parent of a USF player publicly accusing the university of failing in its duty in loco parentis is a big deal. If the university did all they could reasonably ask to care for two adults in their care, they should be publicly cleared.
And either way, many coaches in different sports at different institutions since this happened have told us the same thing; once the kids are on the team bus and through the security line at the original airport, it’s on them to get on the plane.