INDIANAPOLIS — The NCAA’s Legislative Council approved a proposal Tuesday to expand the meal allowance for all athletes.
The move occurred eight days after Connecticut guard Shabazz Napier complained during the Final Four that he sometimes went to bed “starving” because he couldn’t afford food.
The proposal would allow Division I schools to provide unlimited meals and snacks to all athletes, including walk-ons. The measure still must be approved by the board of directors, which meets April 24.
“I think the end result is right where it needs to be,” committee chairwoman and America East assistant commissioner Mary Mulvenna said in a statement released by the governing body.
The proposal has been debated for months, but Napier’s comments after last week’s national title game focused attention to the topic. Napier was named the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA tournament, leading Connecticut to its fourth men’s championship.
Schools have been allowed to provide three meals per day or a stipend for those meals to scholarship athletes.
The new rule would allow walk-ons to receive the same allowances and would allow schools to provide more meals and snacks, too.
Also on Tuesday, a panel of college administrators in Nashville, Tenn., agreed the NCAA business model has to change to survive.
Three administrators participated in a discussion on integrity and the commercialization of college athletics – Ohio Valley Conference Commissioner Beth DeBauche, Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart and former Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe.
Many athletic departments are flush with cash thanks to multi-million dollar TV deals. Conferences have started their own networks, and coaches’ contracts continue to soar.
Now athletes are demanding their fair share.
“The landscape as we know it for Division I is going to certainly change in some form or fashion,” DeBauche said.
While DeBauche sees the current crisis as an opportunity to make college athletics healthier than ever, the panel also agreed the question now is how to do that.
“We have to have 21st-century solutions,” Barnhart said. “We didn’t get to this problem overnight.”
A regional National Labor Relations Board official cleared the way recently for football players at Northwestern to form what would be the nation’s first union for college athletes. Northwestern has appealed the ruling, and the NLRB currently is weighing that appeal. The NCAA and the Big Ten Conference also oppose the ruling.
Northwestern players will vote April 25 on whether to form a union.