State lawmakers in Connecticut took notice on April 7 after the University of Connecticut’s talented guard, Shabazz Napier, made an unusual statement in his post-game interview. Napier, who led the Huskies to victory in the NCAA championship game, told reporters that there were nights where he would go to bed starving because he couldn’t afford to eat.
“There’s hungry nights and I’m not able to eat and I still got to play up to my capabilities,” Napier told reporters.
But Napier and his teammates would be hungry no more. As of Tuesday the NCAA approved a rule permitting all Division I programs to allow their athletes unlimited meals and snacks. The rule change will not be finalized until the NCAA Division I board of directors meets on April 24.
As a college athlete (hopefully soon-to-be Division 1 athlete), that is exciting news. Most athletes would agree that the daily consumption of food for one sports team amounts to a ton or two.
NCAA, I applaud you. But as for Napier, I call bullshit.
Napier is a NBA prospect and UConn’s outstanding star player on a full-ride athletic scholarship in the American Athletic Conference, yet the school isn’t giving him enough money or meal plans to properly fuel him?
Something just doesn’t sound right.
PCC has turned out a few Division 1 athletes over the past couple of years on either full-ride or partial scholarship, which for one player in particular allowed him to have a set meal plan and a stipend.
PCC alumnus James Le’au finished up his senior season as an offensive lineman at Fresno State, part of the Mountain West Conference.
“They give us enough,” Le’au said. “It’s enough for the necessities. They give us a check, and it’s coupled with a set amount of meal plans prepared at the school dining hall per semester.”
And not even all the players use their entire meal plan.
“One player had over 200 meals left one time,” Le’au said. “And that’s just money out of his scholarship, gone. He was a wide receiver, a skinny dude who just never ate.”
Of course, every school is different and every scholarship is different. Walk-on athletes don’t necessarily enjoy the same benefits as athletes with full-rides, and that needs to change, especially if that athlete truly earns his or her spot. But that’s another story entirely.
Another issue that goes under-the-radar is what stipend and extra scholarship money is spent on. It’s given to the athlete for food and other necessities, but that’s not what it’s wholly spent on. Yes, I’m talking alcohol and maybe even drugs.
I know people who’ve partied hard with Division 1 college athletes. I talk to Division 1 athletes who party every weekend, spending over $200 each time. This isn’t uncommon (just look on Instagram and Twitter and you’ll find the proof you need).
Back to Napier’s comment.
Should athletes, who probably expend the most calories on a college campus, be well fed and allotted as many meals and snacks a day? Hell yeah.
This has raised an even trickier question: should college athletes be paid?
The time and effort put into their sport is demanding and leaves little room for any job opportunity or time period. And in reality, a scholarship—full ride or not—doesn’t cover it all. Not to mention college sports bring $16 billion in revenue, which athletes don’t directly benefit from.
The bottom line is that athletes don’t get the high return from all the work they put in compared to all the money colleges make off of them, but they get more than enough to live comfortably. It’s how they choose to use those benefits that could leave them starving