Are we ready for the new arms race?

We hadn’t talked about this yet because I wasn’t ready to, but Tuesday saw the NCAA adopt a handful of well-being rules for its student-athletes. The highest profile belonged to the one granting unlimited meals and snacks to all players — those on scholarship and those who walk on to a team.

It’s a tectonic shift for the same body that infamously billed three Oklahoma football players $11.49 for consuming extra pasta at a graduation banquet.

With time passed now and some of the information, um, digested, I spent parts of yesterday talking to people I know who work at different places in different aspects with different sports. There’s a lot left to be decided and maybe even deciphered still — and that’s if the thing survives the initial override and is approved next week.

What seems clear, at least preliminarily, is this is a game-changer. Literally. It’s great for the nutrition, the sustenance and the development of student-athletes. But it’s also going to become a big part of how a university sells itself to prospective student-athletes.

We know about the ordnance and the ordinances of recruiting, but on the shore today, it seems like this is the next wave in the great arms race.

“I think right now our early discussions are mostly about ‘What does this mean?’” Hammond said. “Is it three meals a day and a late-night snack? Is it having a breakfast and a dinner and a deli bar? What does this mean? There are a lot of questions that need to be answered as we get further into this.

“Certainly down the road I can see there being a recruiting element to it. If School A is doing something and School B is doing something else, what ends up being the most attractive?”

I don’t think I can stress strongly enough how momentous the inclusion of walk-ons is here. Fortunately, I have help. Here’s a real email from a real mom of a real walk-on at a real university.


Thanks for writing about this much needed change.  As the parent of a walk on at [a school], it has been very frustrating dealing with the food issue.  [My son] has the largest meal plan [the school] offers but he rarely gets to use it in season. He goes to  practice before dining hall opens, does not normally have time in day because he carries 18 hours then to practice. When practice is over, others eat at meal table but walk ons head out without eating.  Once to dorm, all dining halls are closed. My son has means to buy food but not time to find healthy food after practice.  He was only eating one meal per day due to time constraints and sheer exhaustion when he first walked on.  Because of this he lost 10 lbs in first month.  He has bought plenty of meals for his friends and we never complain but this change is great for the health of all.  We asked to pay extra or if his meal plan could be used at training table like at other schools and answer was no.  It has been very frustrating but as walk ons they try not to create too many waves out of fear of being cut.

30 Responses to “Are we ready for the new arms race?”

  1. What you’re hearing is the collective sound of university in-house legal counsel rubbing their hands together and doing their best Mr. Burns impression.


  2. NotFooled says:

    WV can offer all you can eat Pepperoni Rolls….GAME CHANGER indeed

  3. tls6apa says:

    Some will look like all-inclusive resort “feeding” buffets, and some will resemble fine-dining sit downs

  4. Let’s just imagine for a second what Oregon is going to offer…

  5. smeer says:

    question – is there a limit to the number of walk-ons a school can carry?

    if not, I see the Alabamas and others doing what used to be common before scholarship limits – getting as many athletes on the team (now walk-ons) as possible to keep them from going to another school – for all those kids who get “promise scholarships” or similar for going to an in-state school

    and if so, it will hurt parity (if there is such a thing) though not to the extent of yesteryear

    it needed to be done – as per the letter above – but NCAA opening pandora’s box without regulating? (because – how are they gonna police it?)

    so anybody know the answer to beyond the 85 scholarship limit?

  6. philip says:

    breakfasts contracted out to tudor’s biscuit world.

  7. smeer says:

    or waffle house?

  8. Josh24601 says:

    If the arms race shifts slightly to feeding players from building nicer places that, yeah, can be beneficial to players’ development but are still just nice rooms in which to be yelled at — if that’s the shift, bully for stumbling into something humane.

  9. wvuchip says:

    Who will be the first school to hire a celebrity chef to feed their athletes? I put my money on LSU hiring Emeril.

  10. Josh24601 says:

    “Let’s just imagine for a second what Oregon is going to offer…”

    Why? Their offer is already better, other things equal, than WVU’s offer. Players getting to eat well off of their labor and because of their value doesn’t change the comparison.

  11. philip says:

    can chili slaw dogs (i’m from southern compete with texas barbecue?

  12. NotFooled says:

    you have to win the Masters to get free food from waffle house…

  13. Dann White says:

    Isn’t the total team size (scholarships and otherwise) 120 players? I believe it was at one time.

  14. Henry says:

    My son was a walk-on at WVU under Rodriguez and he was able to eat at the training table. He also lettered for 3 years. I just wonder if this “walk ons can’t eat” is something Holgersen started or whether it would depend on how far down the walk-on ranking you are, so to speak. Regardless, if you practice and make the team, you should eat for free and shame on any program that doesn’t feed all of their players. The way I see it, Logan Moore is a walk on 2nd string quarter back right now, at least pending a healthy Clint Trickett. Is WVU seriously not feeding him?

  15. smeer says:

    shhhhhh Henry – remember Fraudriguez was lobbying for a lot of things that got us in trouble or would have gotten us in trouble with the NCAA. I am pretty sure the feeding trough is off-limits – otherwise – what’s the news on which the NCAA has to vote?

  16. Josh24601,

    It was a rhetorical question meant to evoke images of just how much farther Oregon is willing to go in its quest to become the be-all end-all of lavish collegiate football programs.

    Who said anything about changing the comparison to WVU? Who even made a comparison to WVU?

  17. Holgorsen’s Hypocritical Hyperbole?

  18. tls62paj says:

    I was a walk on wrestler. Training table not open to ANY of us. Training staff was known to get protein shakes to the guys trying to put on weight though.

    Only food perk I got was getting gatorade when we worked out at the football stadium. Nice Nike gear tho (not nearly as much as the starters but it was something)

  19. Walk on says:

    Walk ons are not allowed to eat regardless of the depth chart position per NCAA. Schools can allow it to be part of their meal plan or be part of an additional pay by walk on to school. Logan is not eating at table unless it is designated as a team meal. NCAA sees this as giving benefits when a scholarship is not in place.

  20. Drew says:


    I don’t think there are a ton of kids in Alabama who have full tuition scholarships available, particularly of the academic variety, that will now be swayed to the Tide because of an unlimited training table. Hypothetically, I see your point, but practically speaking I don’t think it would ever actually be something worth worrying about.

    Any school in he SEC has their bagmen take care of things like that anyway. If anyone didn’t read the article on interviewing an anonymous bagman for an anonymous SEC school, do yourself a favor and check it out. Compelling stuff.

  21. Josh24601 says:


    I brought up WVU relative to Oregon. I thought you implied it by invoking the Ducks largesse here, but it was a hasty implication. Sorry about that.

  22. smeer says:

    Drew – yeah read that article – good bad) stuff. I know there are other factors – more significant. Just thinking that if a school can offer an in-state academic/need scholly and then feed them on top – they would maximize this since – like the article – they’ll do whatever – lie, cheat, steal to gain a competitive advantage.

    so is there a 120 roster limit as Dann suggested?

  23. Josh24601,

    No worries. There’s definitely no comparing WVU (or most programs, for that matter) to Oregon.

    The Ducks are in a league of their own. I think it’s only a matter of time before they win a national title.

  24. Drew says:

    Does that mean there’s no crying in Eugene?

  25. ffejbboc says:

    There are endless possibilities, but IMO this is what you are going to have:

    (1) As someone already mentioned, you are going to see celebrity chefs.
    (2) You are going to get high end product. Think steak, lobster, shrimp, etc.
    (3) You are going to get food “events” like BBQ, clam bakes, etc. If its permissible to share this with prospective student atheletes, these events will take place during big recruiting weekends.
    (4) And the biggie…you are you going to have major restaurant chains partner with colleges and build eateries at the football and/or basketball complex. Imagine a food court at Oregon’s football complex with a Red Lobster, an Outback and an Olive Garden. Imagine a “food floor” at Kentucky’s basketball facility with a Taco Bell, a Chick-Fil-A and a Five Guys Burgers.

    This is going to be HUGE.

  26. ffejbboc says:

    It won’t be long before a Jimmy Johns opens at the basketball practice facility.

  27. MontanaEer says:

    In Baton Rouge, you can get better seafood in convenience stores than Red Lobster will ever make.

  28. Drew,

    Mike Bellotti was my manager, and he called me a talking pile of pigsh*t!

  29. ffejbboc,

    How about a shrimp cook-off?

    It’s the “fruit of the sea”, after all.

    You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it.

    Shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich.

    That…that’s about it.