Will Work For Food

“There are hungry nights that I go to bed and I’m starving.”

This is not the voice of a Covenant student lamenting over the choices in the Great Hall, but of Shabazz Napier, a Division I athlete, in an interview with NBC Sports online. Napier played basketball for the University of Connecticut Huskies until he graduated in the spring of 2014.

His statement brought into question the NCAA’s care of its athletes by suggesting the scholarships don’t provide enough food. Since schools are profiting from their athletes, they have found a way to give back to their players without directly paying them, and they are doing so with food.

Considering Covenant is a Division III school, will we be affected by this new law? Covenant’s associate director of athletics, Tim Sceggel, provided the following insight on this development.

Division I men’s football and basketball teams produce tremendous revenue for universities; athletes are earning their school’s income. Unlike Covenant, such schools do not offer unlimited meals. As a student or athlete at Covenant, you can simply walk into the Great Hall anytime you wish and eat to your heart’s content. Previously, athletes at Division I schools were not privileged with free reign in their cafeterias. They could be given snacks but not full meals.

Athletes began to feel entitled to receive sufficient food considering the demands that sports put on their body and the money they earned for their schools. In April last year, shortly after Napier’s announcement, the NCAA enforced a rule providing D1 student-athletes with an unlimited amount of meals in order to meet their “nutritional needs”.

However, due to Title IX, the NCAA cannot offer the male athletes something without giving the same amount to the women. Therefore, if the men’s football and basketball teams are receiving extra food, an equal number of women from the gymnastics, soccer, or cross country teams must benefit from this new rule.

The NCAA website revealed as of Aug. 1, Division II athletes began profiting from the same rule, giving them unlimited meals and snacks like Division I athletes.

Considering Covenant already provides us with unlimited access to the Great Hall, this new rule will not directly affect us. Besides, DIII schools do not produce any revenue; in fact, we’re losing money from our sports. Our budget is solely dependent upon the Division I basketball tournament, March Madness.

The NCAA website reveals that television and marketing rights fees, mostly from the tournament, produce ninety percent of the budget. The rest of the money is provided through ticket sales. These means comprise a budget total of $800 million. As Division I allots more money for things like unlimited meals, Division III will receive less money. The only way for DIII to make up their losses will be by raising the cost of their schools to be a part of the division.

Overall, this new rule has no immediate effect upon Covenant athletes’ nutritional plans since they have been enjoying unlimited meals in Chartwells. However, the implications of potentially raising the cost of school to maintain DIII athletics may turn out to be more costly than it is worth. The question would then become this: sports and higher tuition rates, or no sports and a more affordable education?