NCAA Agrees to Unlimited Meals and Snacks for DI Student-Athletes

  18 Christine Wixted | April 16th, 2014 | News

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.


  1. Sarah wells says:

    Having a daughter in a D2 swim program that closes cafe on Sundays, I’m intrigued by this decision. I realize I’m coming late to the game but it is laughable that NCAA doesn’t MANDATE this for athletes! My daughter spends a good $200 to stock fridge for meals/snacks when she has already used her “3meal swipes a day”. There are many athletes who can’t afford that! As a distance swimmer she can’t afford not to!

  2. Tom Romano says:

    What I can’t believe is that this was a rule in the first place. If anyone here were hungry, we’d go get something out of the fridge or go out and grab a bite. But some of these kids have no money and rely on a food plan to sustain their intake and to be limited is absolutely absurd. Three hots and a cot….sounds like prison (not that I’ve been there). Another one of those NCAA rules that make them look idiotic in the public eye.

  3. Coacherik says:

    Amazing how something potentially huge is getting such little traffic in the thread. Next time you’ll have to throw MA or USRPT in the title. Where are all the irrationally angry, anonymous posters here, all we get is one? C’mon, man…..

  4. barbotus says:

    I don’t see this so much as an entitlement that schools must provide unlimited meals, but more that providing food beyond the whatever the prior standard (three meals?) is no longer considered an improper benefit (assuming that it was in the past).

  5. Brian says:

    NCAA is a disgrace. Do this for DI, but not DII or DIII? They *truly* care about the student athlete. Not. They can come back and speak with dignity when they expand this to all institutions.

    • Braden Keith says:

      Brian – I think you misunderstand how NCAA rules get changed, which might lead to a lot of your anger on the subject.

      As I explained above, this was voted on by the Division I institutions that make up the NCAA’s Division I membership. “The NCAA” is largely made up of the heads of the member institutions. If D2 or D3 had the votes in favor of this, then they would institute the same rule.

      Mind you, once again, that these changes are not free, and probably part of why they haven’t been extended to D2 or D3. D2 and D3 heads of schools understand their budgetary limitations. Odds are there will be many, many D1 schools who don’t enact this legislation either.

  6. coacherik says:

    So let me get this straight…

    The NCAA is proposing that athletes get unlimited meals and snacks, which of course will have to be paid for by the individual universities. This money’s will be available to all athletes within a university, scholarship or no scholarship to help ensure kids have enough to live on.

    When I swam and got my room and board while living off campus, I got it in the form of a check. So when and if this passes, the NCAA decides to, oh I don’t know, cap it at $2,000 annually, it will be no different than what was making headlines since the beginning. The NCAA is trying to be clever, rebranding their pay for play scheme…

  7. Old Time Coach says:

    Like Coach Bottom said, give thanks.

    For clarification though, it’s up to each school to decide how to give food up to and including 3 meals a day for scholarship and non scholarship athletes, effective August 1. Schools have to figure out if they can, and how they can fund this. It’s not an entitlement that will kick in overnight….

  8. joe says:

    Why is this limited to D1 student athletes only? There are more students athletes at the other levels.

    • Braden Keith says:

      joe – the NCAA looks to its member institutions for guidance. This is limited to the D1 student athletes because only the D1 member institutions voted to make it a rule. The D2 and D3 member institutions would have to go through the same process to get these rules instated at their levels.

      • Ryan Wells says:

        Does this apply to mid major d 1 schools? Or only school for example a big ten school

        • Braden Keith says:

          Ryan Wells – it applies to all Division I schools equally. Each, theoretically, has it’s own votes, but surely the unwritten assumption is that major programs’ votes matter more than mid-majors. At the end of the day, though, when votes are taken, one vote is one vote.

  9. Flyin' says:

    I’m confused, does any student-athlete get to eat as much food as they want?

  10. mike bottom says:

    Be careful in your celebrations. Calories cost money and many athletic departments will not be able to afford to pay for all their “employees” to eat their fill. Ask yourself who will not eat..entitled swimmers beware. Write your local universities that still have programs with thanks for what we have!

    • Swim Fever says:

      You are dead on Mr. Bottom, Swim teams are “allowed” to have a training table even before this ruling. Most schools cannot afford to do it. The more money that is spent on Athletes means it has to come from somewhere. Unless money starts growing on trees. If so, send me those seeds…

  11. ivyswammer says:

    How would this ruling affect Ivy League schools and others that do not give athletic scholarships? Would these student athletes no longer have to pay for meal plans?

    • Braden Keith says:

      ivyswimmer – very good question. So far, outside of the bones, nobody wants to share any of the nuts-and-bolts details with us until everything is passed and set in stone.

      As coach Bottom mentioned above, there’s still the burden of paying for this that schools will have to shoulder. They may provide all of these meals, but initial indication is that they don’t have to.

  12. Ben says:

    the way I read this… they are now allowed to give any amount of food independent of scholarships… but they don’t have to…so for the majority of swimmers (and other non-revenue generating sports) nothing will happen

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About Christine Wixted

Hailing from the Mile High city of Denver, CO, Christine Wixted is a current senior at Duke University. Her swimming career started at the age of 12 and is soon coming to a close with only one semester of collegiate compeition left. Throughout her four years at Duke, she has …

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