In a curiously-timed decision, the NCAA has decided to ensure that no Division I athletes will “go to bed starving,” as Shabazz Napier so memorably put it in a room full of reporters during the NCAA tournament.
Athletes, walk-ons and scholarship recipients have access to unlimited meals and snacks because of their athletics participation, the organization’s Legislative Council announced Tuesday. Athletes had been given three meals a day or a food stipend.
During the Final Four, Connecticut’s Napier had said: “I don’t feel student-athletes should get hundreds of thousands of dollars, but like I said, there are hungry nights that I go to bed and I’m starving.”
After UConn won the national title and Napier was the Most Outstanding Player, he elaborated: “We as students athletes get utilized for what we do so well, and we’re definitely blessed to get a scholarship to our universities, but at the end of the day, that doesn’t cover everything. We do have hungry nights that we don’t have enough money to get food in. Sometimes money is needed. I don’t think you should stretch it out to hundreds of thousands of dollars for playing, because a lot of times guys don’t know how to handle themselves with money.”
The change was one that had been considered for months, but Napier’s comments brought it out of soft focus.
“I think the end result is right where it needs to be,” Mary Mulvenna, committee chairwoman and America East assistant commissioner, said in a statement released by the Leadership Council.
The change comes at a time when there is heightened awareness of the disparity between what an athlete receives in exchange for his services and the multimillions that schools receive for using those services. And it also arrives just as college players are attempting to form a union.
College athletes: the mere threat of a union made them change a decrepit rule. Imagine what you guys could do if you actually organized.— George Atallah (@GeorgeAtallah) April 16, 2014