For years, big-time college athletes have been widely resented on college campuses, perceived by some as pampered and privileged, and maybe even corrupt. Every year seems to bring evidence of athletes taking free cars, being paid under the table, dodging rules.
But some observers think the real problem with college athletes is that they are underfed. Yes, underfed.
“The perception, for the general public, is that the day they get to school and get their tennis shoes, they are getting this entry into a world where the horn of plenty is always there for them,” said Dave Ellis, a sports dietitian for 30 years, who has fed teams at Nebraska and Wisconsin.
This, it seems, is not the case. N.C.A.A. regulations limit colleges to one formal “training meal” a day for their scholarship athletes, whether the athletes are playing tennis, football or any other sport. A few snacks — nuts, fruit and bagels — may also be provided, as well as some nutritional supplements like energy bars.
“Food is placed in the same category as a car in the N.C.A.A.’s eyes,” said Becci Twombley, who coordinates the meal plans for Southern California’s athletes.
One group is demanding action. The Collegiate and Professional Sports Dietitians Association, founded in 2009 by dietitians working mainly for college athletics programs, is asking the N.C.A.A. to do away with the one-meal-per-day limit and “instead permit unlimited interval feedings as needed throughout the day to fully restore athletes and make them ‘whole again.’ ”