According to a 2012 study, 86% of American workers have their hustle planned out to get paid by their employers to follow the NCAA tournament from their desks. Whether it’s checking scores online, or watching games via streaming video, this MSN study estimates that American businesses spend $175 million on paying their workforce to watch games. But while you work on your <Alt><Tab> game to switch from CBS.com to that Powerpoint that’s taking you all day to finish, airlines aren’t just allowing employees to watch games, they’re requiring them to do it.
The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is a monster for the travel industry as players, coaches, and support staff from 68 schools have to travel from pod to regional to the final four, and eventually home, all at a moment’s notice. Last night’s nightcap featured video from the Wichita State locker room where head coach Gregg Marshall told his team to quickly get ready to leave Dayton for their next spot by saying, “Wear comfortable clothes, we’re sleeping on a plane.” Meanwhile, across the hallway, a dejected Vanderbilt was planning a simultaneous trip back to Nashville.
So how do schools make their travel plans so quickly? According to an anonymous source within the airline industry, charter companies quickly submit bids to the NCAA when the games are over to try to win the business of the two teams on the court, whether it’s a red-eye back home for the losers, or a flight two days later for the teams advancing on to the next round. Speed is key in this game, so airline companies will set up “war rooms” where members of their teams monitor the games and prepare bids based on the apparent outcome.
So while you’re killing your phone battery refreshing game trackers every 60 seconds, there’s a room full of airline sales staff watching the games on the clock, ready to submit their bids. No disrespect to bowl representatives, but I think we’ve found the new “coolest job in sports”.