Division I college athletes are now able to keep their bellies as full as they want with food from their respective institutions, and Gene Smith is pleased to hear they won’t be going hungry.
The NCAA Legislative Council approved criteria Tuesday allowing Division I student-athletes an unrestricted amount of meals and snacks in accordance with their respective scholarships, and OSU’s director of athletics and vice president approves.
“We have always been supportive of this type of legislation,” Smith said in an email to The Lantern Thursday. “It is deregulation of student-athlete welfare benefits and permissive, meaning schools can choose to do as they please based on their needs and capabilities.”
The NCAA’s announcement comes more than a week after University of Connecticut senior guard Shabazz Napier said at times he goes to bed “starving” because he doesn’t have enough money to spend on food.
“We as student-athletes get utilized for what we do so well, and we’re definitely blessed to get a scholarship to our universities,” Napier said April 7 after he and his team defeated Kentucky, 60-54, to win the National Championship. “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.”
The rule — which is not to be made official until the Division I Board of Directors meet and vote on it April 24 — not only applies to student-athletes who are on full scholarship, but walk-ons as well. If passed, the rule becomes effective Aug. 1.
“The provision of meals approved (Tuesday) is in addition to the meal plan provided as part of a full scholarship,” the NCAA statement read. “Prior to this change, scholarship student-athletes received three meals a day or a food stipend.”
Smith did not give the monetary figures requested by The Lantern representing how much is spent on snacks or meals for OSU student-athletes, instead forwarding the question on to Associate Athletics Director for Finance Peter Hagan. Hagan did not immediately respond.
The decision to remove the straps and allow Division I athletes full access to as much food as they want also comes nearly three weeks after the National Labor Relations Board’s Chicago district gave Northwestern football players the right to formally establish a union March 26, and could be another step in the movement of college athletes becoming employees.
Smith’s comments on the expansion of the food benefits echo what he said in a Jan. 29 interview with The Lantern, during which he said he does “not believe student-athletes are employees.”
“But I do believe we need to find ways to continue to provide additional benefits,” Smith said Jan. 29. “For example, I am a big believer in coming up with a cost of attendance model … I believe we need to lift some of the other small restrictions we have in place, whether it’s meals or travel or things of that nature that will help out a little bit.”
In an attempt to get a comment from OSU football coach Urban Meyer on the situation, an OSU athletic spokesman told The Lantern in an email Tuesday that since there hasn’t been a vote from the board of directors on the issue, there was no comment. Meyer did not respond to an email requesting comment Thursday.
One of Meyer’s players however, senior defensive lineman Michael Bennett, did say he would enjoy getting more of a stipend as a football player.
“I mean the cost of living’s going up and I don’t think that our stipend is going up,” Bennett said after practice March 27. “So obviously a little bit more money is nice, but I’m not really in the business of trying to force people to do that.”