Gophers adjust to NCAA meals rule

Head coach Jerry Kill said he supports the rule, which took effect April 24.

by Sam Kraemer

More than five months after the NCAA’s approval of a new rule allowing Division I athletics departments to provide unlimited meals and snacks to athletes, the Gophers are still becoming acclimated to the new allotment of food.

The NCAA’s Board of Directors approved the new rule April 24, and many athletics departments are in the process of determining how to approach the new legislation, which allows athletics programs to provide unlimited food if they choose to.

Gophers football head coach Jerry Kill said he endorses the rule change because it benefits his players.

“Any time in performance, you have to have sleep and you have to eat properly,” Kill said. “I think a lot of people benefit from it.”

Kill said the increased availability of food allows his players to easily bulk up or lose weight, depending on their positions.

For example, Kill said freshman Gaelin Elmore has put on dozens of pounds during the last few months as he has transitioned from tight end to the defensive line.

The school’s athletics department has relied on nutritionists to devise menus designed to provide Gophers athletes with a well-balanced diet, Kill said.

“Your nutritionist plays such a big role in sports today,” Kill said. “She meets individually with [the players]. … If you don’t feed the body, if you don’t fuel it, you aren’t going to get what you need.”

KJ Maye, a junior wide receiver on the Gophers football team, said he is in favor of the new rule.

Having options for main meals lets players establish a good routine that coincides with the team’s practice schedule, he said.

“We used to spend a lot of our own money on groceries and things like that,” Maye said.

Like Maye, redshirt senior defensive lineman Cameron Botticelli is in favor of the new rule.

“We’re able to have some snacks for us up in the player’s lounge,” Botticelli told reporters last month. “As far as just saving us money from buying groceries, it takes a lot to feed us.”

The unlimited food and snacks idea didn’t gain traction until April, and Division I athletes have former University of Connecticut basketball player Shabazz Napier to thank for the rule change.

Just minutes after winning the Division I men’s basketball national championship, Napier shared his struggles as a student-athlete in front of a mob of media members.

“Sometimes, there’s hungry nights where I’m not able to eat, but I still [have to] play up to my capabilities,” Napier, now a member of the NBA’s Miami Heat, told reporters after the nationaL championship.

Shortly after his comments had been dissected by national media outlets, the NCAA decided to allow Division I athletics departments to give their athletes unlimited meals and snacks.

A few months in, the Gophers appear to be happy with the new rule.

“You put the right things in your body, you’ll get the right turnout,” Maye said.

Jack Satzinger contributed to this report.