STILLWATER, OKLA. (AP) - Oklahoma State President Burns Hargis plans to create a task force in the next few weeks to study whether changes are necessary to the school’s travel policies following a November plane crash that killed women’s basketball coach Kurt Budke and three others.
Hargis said Friday after a regents meeting that he hasn’t chosen the members of the task force yet but he hopes to have the panel’s recommendations before the start of next school year.
“I don’t want it to go too long but I want it to be thorough,” Hargis said.
Budke, assistant coach Miranda Serna, pilot Olin Branstetter and Branstetter’s wife, Paula, were killed in a Nov. 17 crash in Arkansas on their way to Little Rock for a recruiting visit. It was the second plane crash tragedy for Oklahoma State in just over a decade.
Ten men affiliated with the men’s basketball team were killed in a 2001 plane crash in Colorado on the way back from a game. After that crash, new procedures were put in place to prevent players from traveling on single-engine planes like the one used in the November crash.
However, coaches were still allowed to choose how they traveled by themselves.
“I don’t think you sacrifice anything at the altar of bad safety. Safety is the principal concern,” Hargis said. “Individual discretion can choose safe modes, to be sure, but I think we ought to look at this.
“The last time we did this, we kind of became a model in the country for plane travel by student-athletes. We think it’s prudent to review it again.”
In an email sent to Phillips Petroleum Chairman Wayne Allen, an OSU alumnus, that was released to The Oklahoman newspaper after an open records request, Hargis wrote that he expected “push back” from coaches on the issue.
“It was considered in the last task force that we had on this subject and that certainly was a position of the coaches that they wanted the flexibility to make their own decisions,” Hargis said. “We’ll just look at that again and decide if that’s a prudent way to proceed.”
Hargis said the review would be handled by the university and not through the board of regents.
By Elaine Donnelly
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