Whether Connecticut’s Shabazz Napier knew it or not, he accelerated significant change in college athletics when he told the media eight days ago that he sometimes went to bed “starving” because he could not afford extra food.
With the NCAA Tournament champion and most outstanding player’s words ringing in their ears, the NCAA’s legislative council approved a proposal Tuesday to expand the meal allowance for all athletes.
The proposal would allow Division I schools to provide unlimited meals and snacks to all athletes, including walk-ons. The measure still must be approved by the board of directors, which meets April 24.
“I think the end result is right where it needs to be,” committee Chairwoman and America East Assistant Commissioner Mary Mulvenna said in a statement released by the governing body.
The proposal has been debated for months, but Napier’s comments, made before UConn played in the Sweet 16, brought attention to the topic. Napier was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four, leading UConn to its fourth men’s title.
Schools have been allowed to provide three meals per day or a stipend for those meals to scholarship athletes. The new rule would allow walk-ons to receive the same allowances and would allow schools to provide more meals and snacks, too.
Previously, the NCAA had a bylaw allowing schools to offer bagels, fruits and nuts to athletes. But according to an interpretation, spreads like cream cheese were prohibited, according to a February report by the Los Angeles Times. The NCAA eliminated that interpretation last year.
The committee also approved a measure that would reduce the penalty for a first positive drug test — if the banned substance is determined to be something other than a performance-enhancing drug. Currently, players who fail tests during the NCAA tournament must sit out one full season. The proposal would cut the penalty to half a season.
Committee members said they hope the change will encourage schools to provide more rehab services.
The NCAA tests only during its championship events, though schools can implement their own drug tests throughout the school year.
In other moves, the committee approved:
• A measure requiring football players to have a three-hour break between preseason practices. Film sessions and team meetings still could be held during the break.
• Requiring a school staff member who is certified in CPR, first aid and an arterial external defibrillator to be present at all physical, countable athletic activities.
• Requiring strength and conditioning coaches to be certified by a nationally accredited certification organization.
If approved, all proposals, except the one regarding strength and conditioning coaches, would take effect Aug. 1. The committee has recommended giving strength and conditioning coaches until Aug. 1, 2015, to complete their certifications.