On Tuesday, the NCAA’s legislative council approved a proposal to expand the food allowances for all student athletes to include unlimited meals and snacks. That move occurred eight days after the NCAA men’s title game and UConn star’s Shabazz Napier’s post-game complaint that he sometimes went t0 bed starving because he could not afford food. Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples joined Bill Littlefield to discuss the possible consequences.
BL: Andy, which universities suddenly have an enormous recruiting advantage based on their proximity to great restaurants?
AS: Tulane, obviously. Tulane is your new Alabama. I mean think of all that’s available in New Orleans and if you can feed them however much you want whenever you want, how can you beat that?
BL: What other schools benefit from this new rule assuming it goes through?AS: [University of Wisconsin] Madison. I mean you’ve got State Street Brats walking distance from campus. You got burgers and cheese curds at Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry. You can have breakfast across the street from Camp Randall Stadium at Mickies Dairy Bar where they serve these things called ‘scramblers’ which is eggs and potatoes, cheese, bacon — basically covers a plate the size of a manhole cover and they also serve great milkshakes — this is breakfast mind you. And then late at night, you can go to Ian’s Pizza where they have macaroni and cheese pizza slices. So I mean if you’re a lineman, you want to go to Wisconsin. I don’t think there’s any doubt.
If you’re a barbecue fan, Texas has got some of the best pit masters in the world within 40 miles. I think it’s about two miles from campus, Aaron Franklin’s Franklin Barbecue, probably the best brisket on earth. You get him cooking for you, I think you’re going to own that state in recruiting. Although, Texas A&M has a little ace up its sleeve in Snook, Texas about 10 miles from College Station. There’s a place called Sodolak’s Original Country Inn. They serve chicken-fried bacon with a side of cream gravy, and it is the greatest food product on the face of the earth. And I think the Aggies would be able to take advantage of that.
BL: What are the chances that we start seeing the uniforms of college athletes featuring the logos of various fast food chains?
AS: Oh, that’s probably going to happen anyways. Despite their protests that they are running an amateur sport, the folks in charge of major college sports never every leave a revenue stream untapped. So it’s only a matter of time before Louisville has KFC drumsticks on their helmets.
BL: When the NCAA announced the new policy, America East Assistant Commissioner Mary Mulvenna said “that I think the end result is where it needs to be.” I wonder if she’s now anticipating and email from the Northwestern football player’s indicating there isn’t any need to form a union now.
AS: I somehow doubt it. I actually don’t think the Northwestern football players will vote to form a union. But I think the athletes’ rights movement has taken the boulder-rolling-down-hill mode at this point. They’re gonna get some more stuff. They’re gonna have to or the courts are gonna make the schools give it to them because they’ve built this huge business. They haven’t given the labor force a raise since the ’50s. So the food thing is good PR for them.
BL: The NCAA’s board of directors meets on April 24. That’s when they will either approve this recommendation or not. Do you anticipate that meeting will feature an all-you-can-eat buffet?
AS: I’d hope so. They do feed folks pretty well at the NCAA stuff. I’ve been privy to what the NCAA basketball tournament selection committee gets to eat. There’s an ice cream bar on the Saturday of selection weekend. It’s very thorough. I think they’ll probably make sure their satiated so they realize, “Hey, a full belly’s nice.”