BOCA RATON – Friday’s mass shooting at the Fort Lauderdale International Airport prompted a couple changes to the FAU basketball team’s travel procedures, beginning today when the Owls head from Fort Lauderdale to San Antonio for Thursday’s game against the Roadrunners.
The changes, which included a ban on wearing headphones in the airport and the desire to keep the Owls in a secure area for as long as possible, are designed to keep the players as safe as possible during travel, FAU coach Michael Curry said.
Until this week, FAU players accompanied the staff and managers to the baggage claim area while operations staff claimed the bags and loaded the team gear into the van. Now, when the team arrives at its destination airport, the players will remain within the area of the airport secured by the TSA.
“Once the skycap has gotten our checked bags and loaded it then we’ll leave the secured area and go straight to the bus,” Curry said.
The baggage claim area of Fort Lauderdale’s Terminal 2 is where Esteban Santiago allegedly pulled a gun from his suitcase and opened fire on a crowd of travelers waiting for their baggage, killing five and wounding six.
FAU frequently flies out of Fort Lauderdale on Delta Airlines, which uses Terminal 2.
“I think it’s the right thing to do but, as always, we talked about it on Monday, so that (the players) can talk to their families because I’m sure their families were going to have questions,” Curry said.
The other big change is that players will no longer be allowed to wear headphones while in the airport, but can use them to listen to music or videos once on the plane.
By taking off the headphones, Curry believes the players will have a better sense of their surroundings should something unexpected occur.
“I just want everybody to always be conscious and aware of what is going on around them,” Curry said.
While waiting in the terminal for their baggage to be collected shouldn’t be much of an adjustment – players often use the restroom or grab something to eat near the gate as a means to fritter away the downtime while waiting for luggage to arrive at baggage claim – the headphone ban might need an adjustment period.
“We usually just walk into the airport subconsciously with our headphones on, so it’s probably going to take a while for us to get used to it,” senior guard Adonis Filer said. “(Curry’s) the boss. If he says no headphones, that means no headphones. Everything that he said is in our best interest so that we can be more aware of what’s going on and hear what’s going on.”
Every Monday Curry holds a standing meeting with the players during which they discuss current events. Two days ago the topic was the Fort Lauderdale shooting.
Curry used the session to address player concerns and also provide the Owls with information they could pass along to their families.
“I hadn’t heard anybody talking about it in the gym but you could tell by their level of attention that it was something that had been talked about and something that their parents had probably asked them,” Curry said.
FAU’s football team travels to away games via a chartered jet. All other teams fly commercially to road destinations, when that destination is far enough away from Boca Raton to make driving impractical.
Men’s basketball is the first FAU team to travel via plane since Friday’s shooting. The track team heads to Birmingham, Ala., on Thursday for a weekend meet. Women’s basketball is at home this week before taking to the road next week.
As of now the policies instituted by Curry will apply only to the men’ basketball team. An FAU spokesperson said the athletic department is examining travel policies as they apply to all teams.