Feeding athletes was supposed to be a big topic with the Rules Working Group legislation coming this year. And despite the RWG taking a bit of back seat this legislative cycle, food for athletes is a big part of the legislative agenda at the NCAA Convention in January. Two proposals would loosen the reins on how institutions can feed their athletes.
Proposal 2013–31-A is the biggest change and the one which should spark the most opposition, maybe of all the proposals sponsored this year. Here is the intent of 2013–31-A:
To specify that an institution may provide meals to student-athletes incidental to practice activities during the playing season and while a student-athlete is representing the institution in noncompetitive events (e.g., student-athlete advisory committee meeting, media appearances); further, to specify than an institution may provide snacks to student-athletes at any time.
More clarification will be needed on what is considered “incidental to practice activities” and what constitutes a “snack” vs. a “meal”. The NCAA’s definition of a snack is already pretty broad. On an official visit, institutions can provide “a reasonable snack” in addition to three regular meals. The examples of a reasonable snack: pizza or a hamburger.
Even if “incidental to practice activities” means you can only provide a meal in conjunction with a practice (like breakfast right after an early morning conditioning session or dinner after an evening walkthrough), combined with Proposal 2013–28 it would come fairly close to unlimited food, at least during the season. Proposal 2013–28 allows institutions to provide the maximum meal plan available to all students to student-athletes. Currently, student-athletes are limited to a meal plan which provides a maximum of 21 meals per week. Some institutions now offer larger or even unlimited meal plans, which previously could not be provided to student-athletes.
The combination of larger meals plans as well as additional meals during the season and snacks at any time should alleviate some of the issues with student-athletes going hungry. Institutions with enough resources and clever scheduling of practices should also be able to get a little bit of money into players’ pockets as well. Provide enough snacks and all-you-can-eat meals and student-athletes living off-campus can save some of their room and board stipend for other expenses.
One change missing from the legislation which would essentially solve the food issue is deregulation of training table. The rationale to Proposal 2013–28 acknowledges that many institutions have moved away from dining halls and a number of meals to food courts and meals plans composed of dollars or points. But points in a food court do not go as far as all-you-could-eat dining halls. But schools are still limited to one training table meal per day. Even if they continued to be deducted from an athlete’s meal plan, three training table meals per day would give athletes more opportunities to get the calories they need in an all-you-can-eat setting. Not to mention menus tailored for better performance.