NCAA Approves Unlimited Athlete Meals After Hungry Napier’s Plea

The National Collegiate Athletic Association approved unlimited meals for all athletes, less than a month after the top player in college basketball’s national tournament said he sometimes goes to bed hungry.

The changes won’t be finalized until the Division I board of directors meets April 24 and will take effect Aug. 1, the NCAA said in a statement yesterday on its website. Scholarship athletes currently receive three meals a day or a food stipend.

University of Connecticut guard Shabazz Napier told reporters during the NCAA tournament that he sometimes goes to bed hungry. Napier led the Huskies to their fourth NCAA title last week and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament’s final weekend.

“There’s hungry nights when I’m not able to eat, but I still have to play up to my capabilities,” Napier said in March. “Sometimes it’s that way.”

A handful of lawsuits and an effort by Northwestern University football players to unionize have put the Indianapolis-based NCAA under unprecedented scrutiny. Major conference commissioners, including the Pac-12’s Larry Scott, have said that the NCAA needs to make changes -- such as better health care and increased educational support.

“Reform is needed,” Scott told Bloomberg News this month. “Not everyone can afford to do the kinds of things we’re talking about. The higher-resource conferences can, and want to, and will.”

Other changes approved by the council include a reduction of the penalty for a first positive test for recreational drugs, such as marijuana, during championships from a full season to a half-season suspension. The group will also require football players to rest for at least three hours between preseason practices.

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