- Associated Press - Monday, August 11, 2014

LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) - It is one of many new rules passed by the NCAA this year. And for student-athletes, there are two key words.

Unlimited meals.

On Aug. 1, the NCAA let schools provide unlimited food for its athletes on top of what they provide in meal plans and stipends from scholarships.

This follows a rule passed last year that let schools offer more “snacks,” such as bagels, fruits and nuts.

Matt Whisenant is the deputy director of athletics at the University of Wyoming. He said the interpretation of the new rule is “about as clear as mud.”

But UW is taking an aggressive approach to better feed its 350 - 400 athletes, Whisenant said. He added that after talking to his colleagues in the Mountain West Conference, UW’s plan is one of the more substantial.

He said UW has two phases for unlimited meals. The first is underway now. Additional food, including fruits, vegetables, proteins, trail mix, yogurt, sandwiches and smoothies, are available in the weight room of the Rochelle Athletics Center.

That food is available during weight-room hours, which could be as early as 6 a.m. and as late as 10 p.m. Set hours have yet to be determined.

Whisenant said UW this year budgeted $100,000 for food and between $130,000 and $140,000 for construction and equipment costs related to the program.

The money came from the athletics department budget and was not taken away from meal plans or stipends for athletes. Those who live in the dorms have the option for a meal plan at the Washakie Dining Center. Whisenant said most student-athletes opt for the unlimited meal plan.

Those who live off campus can take the on-campus meal plan, get a stipend as part of their scholarships or take a combination of both. There have been published stories around the country this year from athletes saying they do not get enough to eat because of their time constraints between school and athletics. Or, that their scholarship does not provide enough for food.

Former Connecticut men’s basketball player Shabazz Napier was quoted as saying he sometimes went to bed “starving.”

Whisenant, who has been at UW for 12 years, said he never has heard athletes say they went hungry while at the school.

Athletes in most sports have busy schedules juggling sports and school.

The fall semester at UW does not start until Aug. 26, so most of the athletes on campus now can focus on sports. But when school starts, there is class on top of practice time, meetings and time with tutors provided by the athletics department.

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