Benjy Egel is a journalism freshman and Mustang Daily sports columnist.

State schools are supposed to feel a budget crunch, right? Then how can Cal Poly afford to send hundreds of students on an all-expenses-paid trip to paradise?

The answer: they’re not just students, they’re student-athletes. And the University of Hawaii is a generous school.

Boise State and San Diego State were scheduled to join the Warriors and Mustangs in the Big West next season, but the schools recently backed out to join the Mountain West — leaving Cal Poly athletics worse off.

The Hawaii Warriors joined the Mustangs in the Big West Conference this year. Though all athletic programs are expected to pay for travel to away games, island flights are significantly more expensive than usual.

Hawaii supplies $500 per visiting athlete, coach or team personnel member. For instance, the women’s basketball teams take 21 people on every road trip, so Hawaii dishes out $10,500 per game.

The Warriors expect to reimburse visiting teams $1.2 million a year, a report by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser stated. The school has not paid visiting schools in the past.

Hawaii’s athletic director Jim Donovan said the school will cover costs with more booster donations, increased ticket sales and higher fees for televised football games.

Traveling is even more expensive when the Warriors fly to the mainland. The football team played six road games this year, many of them scheduled consecutively to limit airfares.

The team still traveled more than 30,000 miles throughout the season, and was presented with a $502,000 bill for the away six games.

Economic struggles are not the only reason Hawaiian fans don’t like to see their athletes hit the road. Long flights, jet lag and a lack of island food often result in a few more losses.

Consider the men’s basketball team: 9-5 at home, 1-0 on another Hawaiian court and 0-3 in the mainland.

The most dramatic example of this home/away split is Hawaii’s most storied sport: football. An abysmal 0-6 out-of-town finish offset the team’s 3-3 home record.

The football team did not transfer into the Big West, along with sailing, men’s volleyball and swimming and diving teams, as the conference does not sponsor football, giving different teams the opportunity to pick another conference to play in. Hawaii opted for the Mountain West Conference rather than joining Cal Poly in the Big Sky Conference.

College football fans across the nation remember Hawaii’s 12-0 season in 2007, when quarterback Colt Brennan set the Division I record for most career touchdown passes,which was broken by Houston’s Case Keenum in 2011.

Brennan and future Miami Dolphins wide receiver Davone Bess led the Warriors to the Sugar Bowl, only to be trounced by Georgia 41-10.

Hawaii has not played at nearly the same level since its two stars left, but still went 10-4 in 2010. The Warriors’ inclusion in the Big Sky would have likely created a new conference frontrunner.

For some context, Cal Poly football beat UC Davis this season for the first time in four years. The last time UC Davis and Hawaii played in 2011, the Aggies lost 56-14.

The other Hawaiian teams are adjusting fairly well to Big West play, which is good for the conference’s competitiveness but bad for the Mustangs.

Despite its shaky road performance, the men’s basketball team is 10-8 so far. The women’s team is a step behind at 8-9, but owns a 4-2 mark in conference play. San Diego State was supposed to transfer out of the Mountain West this fall, with most sports headed to the Big West and football destined for the Big East Conference.
San Diego State’s contract with the Big East, however, had an opt-out clause if the league had no other teams west of the Rockies. Boise State was supposed to accompany the Aztecs in moving most teams to the Big West, with the exception of Big East-bound football. But Boise announced on Dec. 31 that they would return to the Mountain West, and San Diego followed suit this past Wednesday. The San Diego State men’s basketball team caught national spotlight in the 2010-11 season, when the Aztecs ranked as high as fourth in the country. The team reached the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament, and forward Kawhi Leonard now starts for the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs. It’s hard to say if Cal Poly would have benefitted from competing with Hawaiian football and San Diego State basketball. The Mustangs’ record will probably be better without them, but we might miss out on national recognition.When Cal Poly basketball beat UCLA in a nonconference game earlier this season, college basketball fans everywhere knew it. It was on the front page of every popular sports website, from Yahoo! Sports to

Ultimately, the exclusions are bad for Cal Poly athletics. Elite athletes always want to compete at the highest level, and that means playing the best teams. It’s better to be a bottom-feeder in Major League Baseball than elite in the minors.

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