School to begin using chartered buses, airlines

HAVRE, Mont. -- Montana State University-Northern will no longer use vans to transport players to away games after a van carrying its women's basketball team crashed on Interstate 90 while returning from Oregon last month

Players will instead ride on chartered buses or airlines, said David Gantt, MSU-Northern athletic director.

"We don't ask professional drivers to coach, so I don't know how realistic it is to ask coaches to drive," he said.

Use of the school-owned vans will be limited to short trips and won't involve late-night or early-morning travel, Gantt said. He eventually wants to phase out the vans -- a change he estimates will cost the school an extra $30,000 to $40,000 a year.

School officials will figure out how to pay for the added expenses later, but at least some of the money will likely come through fundraising, said Jim Potter, director of university relations.

"It is a budgetary issue, but the cost could be much more than money," Gantt said. "We're not going to be able to solve this challenge without change."

Head coach Chris Mouat was driving the 15-passenger van on Nov. 14 when the vehicle hit a patch of ice and overturned on I-90 near the Montana-Idaho border.

The team was returning from a three-game road trip to Portland, Ore. Three players were ejected from the van.

All 10 occupants were taken to the Superior hospital, and four were then transferred to a Missoula hospital. From there, junior Chelsie Searle was sent to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. She was released on Nov. 23, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Junior Ashlie Griffin was released from the Missoula hospital last week. She returned to Havre and was admitted to the hospital there a few days later because of complications with a pain patch, her roommate, Cathi Campanella, said Wednesday.

Potter, who met with most of the players Tuesday afternoon, said the women are recovering and are in good spirits.