Flint Hill High School's nationally ranked basketball team spent its Christmas vacation in Arkansas, participating in the King Cotton Holiday Classic. All of the Falcons' expenses were paid and the school received a financial guarantee.

DeMatha flew, all-expenses-paid, to Myrtle Beach, S.C., for the Beach Ball Tournament last week. Coach Morgan Wootten said his school received no other financial guarantees.

Coolidge had to raise more than $4,000 to fly to Las Vegas for the holiday tournament there. But the majority of the rest of the Colts' expenses were paid.

Annandale raised more than $3,000 to fly to Florida for a tournament. Upon arrival, all expenses were handled by the tournament, but the school received no guarantees.

Crossland chartered a bus to travel to Richmond for its tournament. Coach Earl Hawkins said he received 12 rooms and food and a cut rate on additional rooms and food.

McKinley rented two vans for a tournament trip to New York. All further expenses were paid and the school received other perks -- jackets and T-shirts -- but no money.

W.T. Woodson and Spingarn drove to Johnstown, Pa., to play and received guarantees of about $500 plus a minimal amount of money to be used for meals and gas.

Clearly, it has become common practice for many of the Washington area's better teams to play in holiday tournaments, many of them at some distance. Few tournaments give teams financial guarantees or money for travel, but invited teams are willing to go the extra mile to raise funds for travel expenses.

They also say they would prefer to stay at home for the holidays, but there are no high-profile tournaments to keep them in the area. School officials say no one is prepared to put up the money and take the risk to stage a big event.

Except for eight-team tournaments at Hayfield and Mount Vernon in Virginia, there is no major tournament in this area. Hayfield and Mount Vernon invite teams from Maryland, the District and Virginia, including private schools, but do not bring in out-of-town teams.

And many of the teams that do participate in the two events are not among the top teams in the area, and thus are poor draws.

"There isn't enough money to offer schools any guarantees," said Bruce Patrick, Mount Vernon's athletic director and tournament director. "A tournament where you invite big-name teams and out-of-town teams would be nice, but I'd be afraid to take the risk. Right now, we just about break even. We hold the tournament {for 13 years} mainly for public relations purposes and it's a fund-raiser for us."

Many coaches said they would remain in the area for a first-class holiday tournament with high visibility teams. Most coaches say they play out of town because of the competition, because their players get more exposure and benefit from the cultural experiences and because the schools often make money for their programs.

"The reasons teams go out of town is because your kids play the top teams in other cities, your kids get to live with one another out of their normal environment and they do pay for expenses in most cases," said Flint Hill Coach Stu Vetter.

"Only a few tournaments make the kind of money necessary to give guarantees. Most range from a few dollars to $2,000. At the King Cotton, we played at the Pine Bluff Civic Center and crowds ranged from 5,000 to 7,000 each night. And at $6 per ticket, I would say they made some money. Of course, the teams came from all over the United States and received first-class treatment."

Obviously, a school's basketball reputation also determines where it will play and how much it can demand.

"Your DeMathas and Flint Hills are going to get certain considerations other teams won't because of their programs," said W.T. Woodson's Red Jenkins, who has been to numerous tournaments in his 26 years. "Morgan {Wootten} is a negotiator; he can ask for things such as all-expenses-paid transportation and get it. The tournament officials will want DeMatha and will pay for it. Different schools get different rates."

Wootten said in selecting a tournament he tries to make sure his school will not pay any expenses.

"In most places, we don't make any money, but we don't pay a dime for anything, either," Wootten said. "As long as they take care of the expenses and take care of the kids, it's fine. At the Beach Ball Classic, they did everything for us. We were in a small community and everyone chipped in to help. The program was full of ads and they filled up the gym each of the three nights."

Jenkins and his team played in Johnstown, Pa., and received six rooms and $400 for meals or gas. "We had a fund-raiser that netted us about $4,000, so we didn't need the money," Jenkins said. "I just wanted to give the kids somewhere to play for the holidays. I would love to stay home for a good tournament."

Gary Reedy, a former assistant to Jenkins and now head coach at Annandale, also raised more than $3,000, but used the money to take his team to Florida for the Rainbow Classic.

"Once we got there, we didn't have to pay for anything else except rental cars," Reedy said. " . . . It was a good experience for us."

McKinley Coach Pat Perry agreed. "We enjoy going to New York because New York is New York. A lot of cultural places to visit and very good teams from that city to play. We don't get any money, but they take care of all the bills."

Crossland and Hawkins took its first holiday trip after being recommended to the Benedictine Tournament committee by Gonzaga Coach Dick Myers.

"They paid for 12 rooms and food and we received a cut rate for anything over 12," Hawkins said. "We didn't get any money or any extras. But it was a first-class tournament and the businessmen of the city put some money into the tournament. Unless we get something better, we plan to return next year."

Coolidge split four games in Las Vegas. Coach Len Farello, saying he was pleased with the trip, also indicated his team might not travel every year.

"It takes a lot to raise money and Christmas is just a rough time to travel," Farello said. "I like being home with my family as much as the players might like it. We left Christmas day and that was tough.

"We didn't get a guarantee and we actually had to pay a few more expenses when we got there, such as gas, insurance, etc. Trips are nice because of the exposure and competition and the kids deserve that. But I'd love to play a big-time tournament here."