Among the headlines surrounding Michigan State University's road to the 2019 Final Four was one about the MSU cheer team and Spartan Brass pep band being left off the team's two-hour charter flight to Minneapolis. The Detroit News, through a Freedom of Information Act request, sought to find out just who was on that plane that forced 43 band and cheer members endure a 10-hour bus ride instead.
The paper found in a heavily redacted copy of the 144-page manifest provided by Michigan State that more than 30 spouses, children and other relatives of basketball coaches and university and athletic-department staffers traveled on the airplane.
As reported by The News, of the 144 names on the official travel manifest, MSU redacted 64 of them, citing privacy provisions. Sixteen of the blacked-out names are known to be players on the basketball team, and 15 more are student managers. Many of the remaining blacked-out names also are known to be names of staffers' children under the age of 18. Because the manifest lists names in alphabetical order, it sometimes is clear which blacked-out names are underage sons or daughters of a basketball or university staff member, putting the total count of relatives on board at, conservatively, more than 30.
Of the 80 names that weren't redacted, at least 22 are spouses, children or relatives of MSU employees, including at least two relatives of head coach Tom Izzo's long-time executive secretary, and at least five relatives of Lupe Izzo, the head coach's wife. There are some donors listed, too, including George and Maria Johnson, who endowed a scholarship for Michigan State men's basketball managers.
Only one current member of the eight-person Board of Trustees, Joel Ferguson, was listed as being on the chartered plane, and he brought at least one guest. Trustees are permitted to bring guests. Other trustees made their own travel arrangements. When reached by The News, Ferguson called the travel manifest "a non-issue," adding, "it must be a slow news day," before he went on to say he didn't want to be quoted.
One former trustee, David Porteous, who's now a trustee of Michigan State's law college board, was on the plane, as was interim president Satish Udpa and wife Lalita.
The decision to bump the band and cheer team to an MSU-sponsored bus sparked social media outrage at the time, but the university defended itself then by stating, "The further a team goes in NCAA Tournament play, the greater the personnel needs are to staff and support the team’s appearance, especially during the Final Four."
No further comment from the university or athletic department was made in light of the manifest release.