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Last updated: Thu. Aug. 07, 2014 - 11:16 pm EDT

Are college athletes over worked, under fed?

Sports issues not what they seem

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Have you heard the buzz about college athletes being over worked and under fed?

Forget it, says Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld and former Purdue basketball standout Rob Hummel. The current system works, and if some change is good (not many athletes will turn down an extra $3,000 to $4,000 to help cover the true cost of a scholarship or getting more school-supplied meals), the idea that athletes are being exploited is wrong.

“No, that's not true at all,” says Hummel, set to start his second season with the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves. “I think there are some things the NCAA needs to change, but to say we were going to bed hungry every night, that's not the case. We had plenty of food. That was never an issue.

“I think some of the changes are good. There should be some changes, but we weren't hurting by any means.”

The NCAA recently changed its rules so schools can spend whatever they want on food for athletes. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer has talked about the financial commitment the Buckeyes are making to nutrition.

“We're on the cutting edge. We're pushing it as far as we can. We're not just adding wheat bread and bagels. You're talking about hydration, protein shakes, a nutrition area, a Gatorade area, ect.

“We had some guys come to practice who hadn't eaten anything since breakfast. That was a problem.”

IU athletic director Fred Glass has been on the food forefront. Four years ago he hired Amy Freel, a registered sports dietician and now senior assistant athletic director. He added sport performance dietitian Brittney Bearden this year, and plans to beef up the food available to athletes.

As far as athletes being overworked, NCAA rules limit in-season practice and participation to 20 hours. Many athletes go way over that, doing on their own what they didn't have time for in a team setting. The key word is voluntary, and cynics suggest voluntary becomes mandatory if you want to play.

But then, those cynics never had to try to beat, say, Michigan State's defense in front of 70,000 or so people in a stadium, with millions more watching on TV.

“They can do all the rules changes they want and it won't change for me,” says Sudfeld, who estimates that, during the season, he watches four hours of film a day on his own. “It's not me trying to look good to the coaches. I'm just trying to cover myself and make sure I know what I'm doing. Film study has helped me a lot. It can be a strength of my game.”

Athletes are getting more benefits than ever before. Indiana has initiated a 10-point athletes bill of rights to include a lifetime degree guarantee, comprehensive medical care and a four-year scholarship commitment

“We put it to recruits right away -- here is our school's commitment,” IU football coach Kevin Wilson says. “It's mentoring, nutrition, the total deal. We tell them it's from the school, not from (the football program).

“Our conference is one of the leaders in that. We're a leader, not a follower. We'll ask some things of you. Here's what we're giving you. It took a lot of courage to do this.”

In return, the university expects athletes to set good examples.

“Being on a college team is a huge commitment,” Wilson says. “It's a lot of time. It's not for everyone.

“There are certain guidelines. Departmental policy says our kids should act better than our faculty and staff do. When you have the coverage we have today, with a national network (the BTN) covering everything we do, and even though you're a young man and want to have fun and enjoy the college experience, you've got to handle it in a respectful way. We want you to have fun, but there are certain ways you have to do things. We have a team mutual respect.”

pdiprimio@news-sentinel.com


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