That one word, uttered by a superstar, was the final push the NCAA needed to propose a necessary change to its rules.
The issue of whether NCAA athletes should be paid has been around for a while and has really reached a new level this year. Previously, I wrote about whether these athletes should be paid and the lawsuit that was filed against the NCAA and several conferences demanding remuneration for the athletes. This issue gained further momentum and attention when the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago issued a decision on March 26 allowing the football players at Northwestern University to unionize.
On the heels of that decision came March Madness and UConn basketball star Shabazz Napier's remarks that sometimes he goes to bed starving because he does not have enough money to buy food. The latter undoubtedly prompted the NCAA to publicize its latest proposal regarding unlimited food and snacks for its athletes.
In college, I was categorized as an NCAA athlete. I remember that after night games or meets there was no where on campus that was open to obtain food. Football games started around 4:05 p.m. and I often had to be there by 2:30 for pregame appearances and pregame festivities.
The game would last until after 8 p.m. and I wouldn't be able to leave the dome until 9 and I guarantee the players left after I did. There was no where on campus the players could get food unless they had some in their rooms. The dining halls had closed and so had the stores that allow you to use your college "currency."
I was fortunate in that I had the ability to hit the Denny's or the local Taco Bell but not everyone, including Napier, has that ability. Based upon my own experience, I see where Napier is coming from and I am here to tell you that it is true.
Just this week, the NCAA issued a press release proposing that its athletes receive unlimited meals and snacks. This would allow Division I schools to provide food in addition to the meal plan covered by the scholarship.
Geez NCAA, that is so kind of you, so thoughtful indeed.
I do not need to emphasize that several programs make ample dollars off their athletes, and even if a particular program does not, the conference likely does. As such, this proposal should not be a stretch to make reality. The hardest part would be to simply implement the program and choose which locations would provide the food.
Since the release did not say whether this would be the case for "after-hours" my question is, "Would there be a place to get food when all regular places are closed?" Unlimited food and snacks is great but there also needs to be a time component in there.
Currently, the NCAA rules allow athletes to be provided three meals a day or a food stipend. I can tell you I eat more than three times a day and I am not a growing, college athlete. That alone shows me the rules need to be changed and a program put into place that meets the needs of the athletes.
To me, this is not an issue of athletes getting special treatment, it is an issue of athletes getting what they need in exchange for providing a service and many dollars to the program.
Yes, some get scholarships and a "free education." However, I am sure you would agree with me that a free education is not as important as food and if the athlete is hungry, they won't be able to concentrate anyway.
With any new idea or proposal there are always risks. If implemented, the program would need to have rules about whether the athletes could take food out of the facility and back to their rooms. Safeguards would need to be put into place to ensure athletes are not abusing the program and feeding all their friends. Common sense tells us these risks would be easy to eliminate and the greater good and fairness dictates this proposal is a NO-BRAINER.
Remarks like those made by Napier are embarrassing to the college system, the athletic system and to our country in general. It says we care more about the "dollar bills y'all" than taking caring of our student-athletes.
Come on NCAA, make me proud to be a former NCAA athlete and get this program implemented ASAP.