Division I swimmers are rejoicing everywhere.  Everyone remembers Phelps’ 12,000 calorie diet and while that may be an extreme case, it’s not out of reach for some swimmers participating in a Division I swimming program.

On Tuesday, the NCAA Legislative Council approved unlimited meals and snacks for DI student-athletes, including walk-ons.  This new legislature would be in addition to the meal plan that is already covered by full scholarships.  The previous rule stated that student-athletes were provided three meals a day or a food stipend.  Mary Mulvena, commissioner of the America East conference said, “we took action to provide meals to student-athletes  incidental to participation…the end result is right where it needs to be”.  The council believes that loosening NCAA rules regarding what and when food can be provided was the simplest and easiest way to address it.

Now, a swimmer’s crazy caloric intake didn’t spark this issue, it was a student-athlete who recently defied all odds in the madness of the men’s NCAA basketball tournament, Shabazz Napier.  After advancing the to the championship game as a seventh seed, the story broke that Napier apparently goes to bed “starving” and sometimes has “hungry nights”.  The timing was everything, seeing as though Napier was in the national limelight and it was shortly after a group of Northwestern football players got approval to unionize.

“One of the real problems with the governing side of the NCAA is they say they are all for the athletes, but they miss the real needs of a student-athlete,” said Johnny Moore a Visiting Associate Professor at Duke University. “Cost of attendance, since it is impossible for them to work a job to make extra money and still compete is just one of the underlying needs. It all funnels down to helping the student-athletes with extra meal money and just small things that add up. With billions coming into the NCAA and college coffers it seems incredulous to not look at the real needs of a student-athlete.”

Ed Tiryakian, Chief Marketing Strategist at Argentum Group and Duke professor of the class Business of Sports, states that “the NCAA is always slow to react to real issues, like stipends for athletes or travel allowances”.  But due to Napier’s quote placed perfectly in time “the NCAA had a knee jerk reaction resulting from one sensational quote, from one high-profile athlete…free food for walk-ons, now that is the flashpoint everyone is clamoring for”.

As of right now, the NCAA has not provided many specifics on how this new legislature will pan out.  Todd Mesibov, an Assistant Athletics Director/Compliance at Duke University says “it will be up to each school to figure out exactly what additional meals will be provided and how to pay for them.  This will one more expense to include while making those and other decisions”.

No action is considered final until April 24th, but this type of reaction from the NCAA certainly turned some heads.  The rule would go into affect starting August 1, a day that would be considered historic in NCAA history.

Read the full NCAA press release, which includes other approved measures right here.

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