Chatham Cougars ride the polar express

Cold buses could potentially put student athletes at risk

Photo Credit:

Haley Daugherty

When players say they compete with ice in their veins, they usually don’t mean literally. Chatham University has been taking this phrase to a new level as multiple athletic teams have reported traveling to practices, meets and competitions with no heat on their buses.

During the day, this is not such an issue because the bus has time to sit in the sun and get warm. However, teams that travel early in the morning when it’s still dark fall victim to the cold.

“At the beginning of the year it wasn’t that bad because it was warmer,” said hockey player Jackson Koblick ‘24. “Now it’s gotten colder, and we aren’t able to warm up until we’re on the ice. Me and a lot of the other players have started wearing gloves and bringing blankets on the bus to try and get warm.”

While layering up helps, student-athletes say that long drives in the cold become uncomfortable after a certain amount of time – especially with January and February being among the coldest months of the year. 

“On a two-hour ride to a meet, I spilled a cup of hot chocolate and it froze to the floor,” said track team member Justin Desabato ‘23. “Then, after the bus driver realized the heat wasn’t working, he handed out blankets that were in the bus storage.”

Players usually take the time on the bus to relax, unwind and get their minds right for the competition ahead. With the buses being so cold, competitors are worried about other things.

“It definitely feels like there’s more chances of injury,” said hockey player Michael Lamison ‘22. “We have to do more to make sure our bodies get warm enough that we won’t get hurt on the ice. … It would be nice if we could just relax on the bus rather than shivering and worrying about staying warm.”

Unfortunately, the heating issues are out of the drivers’ hands. During the trips, drivers turn the heat all the way up in an attempt to warm up the bus with no success.

“I sit in the back of the bus and it sounds like there is a heating system trying to run, but it just blows cold air through the vents like air conditioning,” Koblick said. 

Chatham University uses two different bus companies for athletic transportation. For competitions that are farther away – meets or games that are out of state – Chatham utilizes a third-party bus company called Elite. When competitions are closer or for practices, Chatham uses its own buses. According to players and coaches, trips with no heat have been on Chatham-supplied buses.

“The drivers that we’ve had have told us that the buses are difficult to heat up when the temperatures are 0 or sub-zero,” said track and field coach Eden Bloom. “I think that it does become a bit unsafe when players are that cold for hours and it’s so cold outside.”

When asked about the lack of heating, Chathams athletic director Leonard Trevino appeared to be surprised that there was a problem and ensured that he would look into the issue.

“Our athletes deserve to be comfortable and shouldn’t have to be dependent on layers to keep warm while they’re inside,” Trevino said. “We need to look into this and fix it.”

The athletic department is planning on reaching out to the bus facilities to see what is causing the problem. Trevino said both buses are new and, while used often, should not be having these issues. The athletic department recommends that athletes report future issues to their Student Athletic Action Committee (SAAC) representatives in order for problems to be handled promptly.

Clarification (March 17, 2021) – According to Robert DuBray, assistant vice president of Facilities and Public Safety, Chatham University buses are all equipped with heating. Due to the size of the buses, when temperatures are low it takes an extended amount of time for heat to reach the entirety of the bus. Hotter thermostats are being installed in the three, 40-passenger busses.