NCAA Might Soon Allow Student-Athletes to Eat Unlimited Food

If a new rule proposal is approved by the NCAA, student-athletes will soon be able to chow down on unlimited food and snacks.

The NCAA Legislative Council recently proposed allowing student-athletes to receive unlimited meals and snacks in conjunction with their athletics participation. This would revise the policy that permitted scholarship athletes to receive only three meals per day, or a food stipend.

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If the proposed rule is approved by the NCAA Board of Directors, full scholarship, partial scholarship or walk-on athletes would be able to eat as much food as they need, depending on what their college or university chooses to provide. Before, only scholarship athletes were eligible to receive food.

Currently, schools only offer bagels, fruit and nuts—and we mean only those products. "I can provide nuts, but not nut butter," says Victoria Rosenfeld, sports dietitian and nutrition therapist at Princeton University. "I can provide a bagel, but no cream cheese."

While the new proposal would certainly help student-athletes, Rosenfeld suggests waiting to see how the rule is interpreted before getting too excited.

"A snack could be interpreted a lot of different ways," she explains. "If you take that 4-foot-11 gymnast and that 7-foot-tall basketball player, a snack to the basketball player could be a whole meal to the gymnast. The issue of interpretation and cost limits could still be barriers."

A school with substantial resources could offer their student-athletes sumptuous meals as part of their athletic participation, while schools with moderate financial means would only be able to offer athletes . . . well, probably bagels with cream cheese.

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The announcement of the proposed rule change comes on the heels of UConn guard Shabazz Napier telling reporters he would often go to bed hungry. His comments prompted Connecticut lawmakers to explore whether players should be allowed to unionize.

This proposal comes before the NCAA Board on April 24. If approved, the "Unlimited Food" rule would take effect on Aug. 1.

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