University of Connecticut star point guard Shabazz Napier said during the Final Four in April that some nights he went to bed "starving," unable to buy the food he needed.
Those comments must have hit a nerve in the NCAA offices. Eight days later, the NCAA passed a rule allowing Division I colleges to offer student-athletes additional meals or snacks. Previously, schools were required to provide scholarship athletes three meals a day during the school year, or a stipend of equal value to the meals, as well as snacks such as bagels or nuts. The new rule allows schools to provide more food.
"It's going to help us a lot," said Colorado senior cornerback Greg Henderson. "We'll be able to maintain our weight, or gain weight if we have to. The stipend, it covers a lot, but sometimes toward the end of the month we run out of money, so it's just better when we have more food to eat so we don't go hungry."
CU is the one Front Range school with big plans to take advantage of the rule, which went into effect last week. Athletic director Rick George said the university has budgeted $800,000 to $1 million to both hire a sports dietician and provide extra food to its student-athletes.
"We want to look at the right options for our student-athletes to get the nutrition that they need," George said. "It's different by sport and what their needs are and if they're in season or out of season. There are a lot of factors that go into that, so we're developing a plan that will benefit all of our student-athletes."
Most area schools are taking a wait-and-see approach toward making any big changes in how they feed their athletes, but Colorado State football coach Jim McElwain said his players will get what they need.
"We're going to be able to get these guys some extra meals," McElwain said. "What happens is, especially in season, they have to hustle over to try to get something to eat and now we're going to be able to make sure they at least get a snack. It's almost the convenience part of it, they're burning a ton of calories and to be able to get them a little extra is huge."
NCAA associate director of media relations Michelle Hosick said in an e-mail the legislation is intended to replace a meal that might have been missed because of a scheduling conflict, or allow for snacks to fill in gaps during the day.
The rule has led to many colleges reassessing the food they are providing and turning to dieticians for help.
Beth Jauquet, who works for Cherry Creek Nutrition, said there are too many variables to determine how many calories an average athlete burns. She said student-athletes in a high-intensity sport can't necessarily meet all their nutritional needs with three meals. Jauquet said with an additional meal or snacks, athletes should recover better, which could help lead to better performances.
But not all colleges in Colorado are ready to shell out more money for food. University of Northern Colorado athletic director Darren Dunn said his budget for the current academic year was set in January, but his department is looking at options to make sure its student-athletes have all they need to eat.
The Air Force Academy will not be affected by the rule. Cadets receive three meals a day and are required to attend breakfast and lunch. There are no student-athletes who live off campus, so the athletic department doesn't use stipends. Troy Garnhart, associate athletic director for communications, said the school is not planning on supplying additional food.
Colorado State is using this school year as an observation period. John Morris, CSU deputy athletic director, said the school will study what others are doing and build a plan. One of the main goals is to provide additional nutrition for athletes, Morris said.
He's talked with other schools in the Mountain West conference and said the response has been positive in how athletes can be helped.
"Everyone has a lot of questions about what's possible. Everyone is kind of in a brainstorming mode to figure out what the best things to do are," Morris said.
Alexandria Valdez: 303-954-1297, firstname.lastname@example.org