Council approves unlimited meals

INDIANAPOLIS -- The NCAA's legislative council approved a proposal Tuesday to expand the meal allowance for all athletes.

The move occurred eight days after Connecticut guard Shabazz Napier complained during the Final Four that he sometimes went to bed "starving" because he could not afford food.

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, first made before UConn played Iowa State in the Sweet 16 and then again after the Huskies beat Kentucky for the national title, brought attention to the topic. Napier was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four after leading Connecticut to its fourth men's championship.

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.

"I don't think we need someone worrying on our behalf that we're either underfeeding or overfeeding our athletes," Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon told ESPN.com's Darren Rovell. "Hopefully we can figure it out all by ourselves. Institutions should be able to recognize from a budget sensibility what constitutes reasonable limits. That's why I think this deregulating is a good plan."

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 get three-hour breaks 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 arterial external defibrillation 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, the 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.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.