As is the case at many major colleges, the University of Nebraska's athletic department has long relied on a mix of private charters and commercial flights, as well as car rentals, for coaches embarking on recruiting trips — but that's about to change.
According to HuskerOnline, Nebraska's new "Husker Air Fleet" program is designed to offset the $971,000 the athletic department has spent on flights to recruit just for football, volleyball and men’s and women’s basketball. Of that total, gleaned from 2017 data, $700,000 was spent on private flights, while $261,000 covered tickets on commercial flights.
Nebraska athletic department officials told HuskerOnline that the new program allows donors to provide:
*Private planes that meet aircraft, maintenance, pilot and insurance standards.
*Flight hours, such as through fractional ownership or jet card hours. Fractional ownership costs include the number of hours flown, but also some recurring costs of owning a share of a small jet. In general, a jet card allows more of a pay-as-you-go service, without many of the other partial ownership costs.
To give a general idea of the cost, 25 hours of flight time on a private jet ranges from about $145,000 to $165,000 plus taxes and other fees, according to industry data.
*Money to the Nebraska Foundation to pay for air expenses.
In return, donors can choose from receiving 100 percent tax deductibility on their contribution or priority points and awards that range from invitations to private events and ticket opportunities to Cornhusker athletic events.
“We are pleased to move forward with the Husker Air Fleet,” athletic director Bill Moos said in a statement. Private air travel, he added, is a vital, but costly, tool for recruiting, particularly in a program “that recruits nationally and has coaches who may need to travel from coast to coast in a short period of time.”
While some schools have offered well-heeled donors perks in exchange for use of their private jets, Nebraska has a history of booking all charter flights through private service providers. And unlike Big Ten Conference peer institutions Ohio State, Penn State and Purdue, Nebraska has yet to purchase its own planes.
The Husker Air Fleet is part of a broader effort launched last fall to attract more donor support to Nebraska athletics. Over the next five years, the university hopes to increase the number of regular donors in the Huskers Athletic Fund from 16,700 to 22,000.