LEXINGTON - Kentucky coach John Calipari has made it clear that he’s not happy with NCAA rules that limit how much food a college athlete is allowed to receive.
A story in The New York Times by Steve Eder detailed that NCAA regulations limit colleges to one formal “training meal” per day for their scholarship athletes. A few snacks — nuts, fruit and bagels — may also be provided, as well as some nutritional supplements like energy bars.
Calipari posted at www.coachcal.com that all his players had lost weight during the first semester and that “part of the reason they’ve been so exhausted in practice and in games is their energy levels have been low” due to some of the players not eating enough.
“Under the current rules, if a young man eats at our training table and wants to take some food for later, he can’t. It’s either eat it all there or go hungry the rest of the night. We have a kitchen here that should be open for these kids whenever they want to eat. What do they do if they’re at home and they want a sandwich at night? They walk down to the kitchen and get it. My own son does that at home. Here, under the current rules we have, we can’t,” Calipari said on his website.
“The response we get (from the NCAA) is, ‘Well, they can eat whenever, they’ve just got to go out and buy it like a normal student.’ I hate to break it to you, these aren’t normal students. We ask a lot of them and demand a huge chunk of their schedules. They aren’t afforded the time that normal students have.
“Also, athletes do not eat three times a day. They eat —and need to eat — five, six and sometimes seven times a day. We go so hard and train so much that these kids exert and spend a lot of energy. Are we not going to let them refuel? If they want to grab some a snack at their dorm because they’re starving after a practice, we aren’t going to let them because there aren’t snacks at the other dorms?”
Calipari said that during the semester break, schools can let players eat all they want, and he said his players have gained weight in the last week.
Calipari said Friday it was “stupid” to limit how much players could eat.
“Kid comes from practice and he’s not real hungry but he wants to eat something, so he eats a little bite and a couple bites, ‘I’m not real hungry right now, I’m going to take some stuff up to my room and I’ll eat later.’ No, that’s an extra benefit. Excuse me? That’s an extra benefit,” he said.
“They eat, they eat again, they eat again, they eat again, they go down because they’re burning up calories. Now, what I imagine they’re afraid of is some team go over-the-top and feed their kids too much and have a fat team.”
Calipari says the logic on this rule escapes him.
“You have a place there, if a kid gets hungry, go eat something. Well, you have to eat between six and eight or you go hungry. Well, you’ve got to eat between this time and that time. Eat when you want to eat. Have things in the refrigerator, go eat. Eat like you’re at home. If you want to eat six times a day, that’s fine,” he said. “Every individual is different. I just don’t understand it, but then again, there’s a lot of stuff I don’t understand.
“They have a cook that has been with them, cooks with them. My deal is well, you’ve got a kitchen there, why wouldn’t you put stuff where they could eat it whenever they want it? You got a refrigerator there, stick sandwiches in there. You want a sandwich at night, go grab a sandwich. Can’t right now. I’d probably be suspended for three games.
“Folks, it’s not smart. Why do you think they have that rule about food? There’s a school that couldn’t afford to feed their guys like that, so you’re not going to feed your guys. Whether they need it or not, that’s not what this is about. Whether a high-level athlete needs to be fed, feed them because they’re burning up tons of calories. Feed them.”
Calipari said he’s not sure if he will bring this matter up at the coaching convention.
“I don’t know if they’d listen to me or boo me off the floor,” he said.
Gun control: At the end his press conference Friday, Calipari was asked his thoughts about gun control — one week after the shootings at a Connecticut elementary school left 26 dead, including 20 students.
"I don’t see the need for assault weapons. I don’t see the need at all. But again, we as a country gotta come together and say, ‘You have some mental illness issues. How do we deal with those?’ How do we truly deal with someone that has an illness and not shove it under the rug that it’s an embarrassing thing?" Calipari said. "Well, is cancer embarrassing? Mental illness, it’s an illness.
“We don’t need assault rifles. It’s a problem. Maybe it’s video games. I don’t know. It needs to be a dialogue of: How do we come to grips with this?
“I think we’ve got a lot of bull-headed people and if it were their child, I think they’d act. I think if everybody just looked at this issue, whether it was the mental health issue, whether it’s we need to cut mental-health spending. OK, what if that were your child in that room? Whether it’s gun control — ‘We don’t need it! I need my assault rifles!’ — what if it was your child in that room? How would you feel right now? Would you feel the same way? I think if you took it and looked at it that way, I think people would deal with it different and we’d come to terms. It’s just happening too much now.”
Holiday break: Kentucky players left after Saturday’s win over Marshall for their Christmas break. They’ll have today, Monday and Tuesday off before returning to practice Wednesday.
“So we’re giving them a good break. This has been an experience for them, so they need to get away and get their heads back and be with their families. And I want to be with my family,” Calipari said.
Center Willie Cauley-Stein said the last week on campus after other students left when final exams were over has been a bit mundane.
"There is nothing else to do (except go to bed). It's not like there is anyone else on campus. The only thing you can do is rest. Sleep is a must, though. We would not be able to make it through this if we did not have enough time to sleep,” Cauley-Stein said.