UI refueling stations prove beneficial

BY CINDY GARCIA | APRIL 02, 2015 5:00 AM

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Student-athletes now have never-ending grub.

After the NCAA changed legislation to allow universities to provide unlimited meals to athletes last year, the University of Iowa Athletics Department has seen an overwhelmingly positive effect, officials and students said.

According to the NCAA, the unlimited meals and snacks rule applies to both walk-on and scholarship athletes. Athletes with a full scholarship previously had a food stipend or three meals a day.

In response, the UI implemented two main “refueling stations” in the Carver-Hawkeye Arena weight room and the Gerdin Athletics Learning Center. The refueling stations operate on the same schedule as the two facilities.

Food options include granola bars, salads, fruit, vegetables, yogurt, sandwiches, etc.

“The student response has been positive, and it is measured by inventory and comments we have received from student-athletes and their parents,” Terry Noonan, the UI director of athletic training services, wrote in an email.

Based on current use, officials expect to spend around $450,000 to $500,000 a year for the stations.

“This is the first year for the program, and we evaluate it every month to make sure it meets our goals,” Noonan said.

He also said perishable food items are being re-evaluated to include more or different varieties, but cost is an important factor in any decision.

Hawkeye head rowing coach Andrew Carter said the response of rowing athletes has been positive.

“It has enabled students with classes that bump right up against practice to get properly timed, quality nutrition immediately following a training session,” he wrote in an email. “Breakfast after weight-room sessions and before class was a wish for many, and there were nearly as many running to 6:30 p.m. classes after practices that ended at 6:15 p.m.”

Carter noted that rowing is an equivalency sport.

“For the uninitiated, that means we have the equivalent of a particular number of athletics scholarships assigned to our sport, and we’re permitted to break those scholarships into pieces to help as many students as makes sense,” he said.

This differs from football and basketball, which are head-count sports, where scholarship athletes receive full scholarships — which usually include unlimited meal plans.

For rowers and other partial-scholarship students, a meal plan isn’t usually part of their aid package.

“The refueling stations are 100 percent better than the previous meal arrangements, because previous meal arrangements didn’t exist,” he said. “That’s not a University of Iowa thing. That’s a consistent reality for equivalency sports at all NCAA institutions.

“It’s not an easy thing to do and certainly not an inexpensive project, but our department made it a priority, and it’s getting done. I think our students are better for it.”

Another coach had the opinion.

“The players absolutely love it. They couldn’t be any happier,” UI head baseball coach Rick Heller said. “With our old plan, they would bring their own bar or food just to have some energy for practice, because if you come out here on an empty stomach, we’re not going to get a lot out of you.”

Heller also said it really benefited his team.

 “The refueling station is really big, at least to me, because that is where our sport suffered,” he said. “We had guys running here and there, to and fro, and I’m sure it’s the same for all sports, but knowing baseball, how things work, we really had a big need for it, and our guys really appreciate it.”

One Hawkeye agreed.

“The main thing would be with morning practice. We get done at a weird time so I have time to get ready but not enough time to go the dining hall,” said Taylor Majher, a UI freshman in cross-country and track & field. “Same thing with dinner, if I’m out really late and the dining halls are closed.”

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