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.