It was the college football athletes who began the roaring debate of whether or not they should be compensated for their worth to the university, but it was Connecticut basketball‘s Shabazz Napier who helped turn to the corner. In the locker room right after his team had just won the NCAA Division I men’s basketball national championship, Napier confessed to the media, “Sometimes there’s hungry nights where I’m not able to eat, but I still gotta play up to my capabilities.” Those words prompted the discussion to momentarily shift from compensation to basic needs, and the Division I Legislative Council took a monstrous step in the right direction by allowing Division I programs to grant all of its athletes unlimited meals and snacks.
That ruling won’t go into effect until the NCAA Division I board of directors meets on Apr. 24. As it currently stands, programs are allowed to provide scholarship athletes with one training table meal per day, and that cost is deducted from the amount of money the athlete receives to purchase food plans. When it comes to non-scholarship players, including walk-ons, they can participate in those training table meals but must pay to eat them.
Just for fun, I went to Michigan‘s athletic site to see the food rules in all of its technical terms. I wasn’t disappointed. It took 943 words to lay it all out, and some of the bullet points are just ridiculous, if not funny.
- “Student-athletes may receive a snack the evening before a competition during away from home travel when the unlimited food option is not being utilized.”
- “All student-athletes on a team may receive a pre- or post-game meal (but not both) as a benefit incidental to participation.”
- “Training table meals must be taken together as a team in the same location at the same time.”
Sounds silly, right?
NCAA President Mark Emmert has even admitted the food rules in place are just absurd, and he ultimately wants to redefine what a scholarship means for athletes. For now, though, it looks like the NCAA is taking a leap in the right direction by allowing student-athletes, no matter their scholarship status (or lack thereof), unlimited meals, ending the “hungry nights.”