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NCAA finally ends the war on snacks

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport

Occasionally, the NCAA does manage to do stuff that makes sense. The amusing thing is that these obvious changes have to be made at all. The rule book seems like a wickedly cruel self-imposed joke, particularly on days like this one. Like some administrator on his way out years ago threw in some arcane BS just to screw with his soon-to-be-former associates in the years to follow. Even when the NCAA is doing something right, it opens itself up for ridicule because it is correcting an absurdity, erasing a mandate that never should have existed.

For example: on Tuesday, the NCAA announced that the rules regarding the amount of meals and snacks schools are allowed to hand out to their athletes will be loosened. Unlimited meals and snacks for everyone!

Started in the dairy aisle and now we here.

This change stems from the infamous old NCAA rule that stated, "An institution may provide fruit, nuts and bagels to a student-athlete at any time." At one point, NCAA rules even banned cream cheese on bagels for athletes.

(Cream cheese apparently took the bagel beyond the snack threshold to bona fide meal, so NO CREAM CHEESE, SON.)

I can only imagine the mundane concerns that must go through the heads of compliance officers across the country every single day. The NCAA's rule book is so byzantine and pedantic in places that not even its member institutions have a complete grasp of what is and is not technically legal. In one of my favorite NCAA-related stories ever, Oklahoma recently self-reported this:

Violation: Three current student-athletes received food in excess of NCAA regulation at a graduation banquet. The three had graduated from the school but returned for an additional season of competition. The players were provided pasta in excess of the permissible amount allowed. Resolution: The three were required to donate $3.83 each (the cost of the pasta serving) to a charity of their choice in order to be reinstated.

The NCAA later clarified that in fact there are no rules regarding portion size, so this was not a violation, but could you blame OU for assuming it was? Hell, if bagel toppings have been addressed, there's got to be something in there about pasta, right? This is the bizarre world of college sports, where the appearance of amateurism, however hollow, is paramount, and that's how we end up with three kids donating five bucks to charity because they were told they ate too much at dinner. This might actually be a solid parenting move in some cases, but it doesn't make a lick of sense within the context of college athletics.

At least now there is no more potential food-related worry for the NCAA's member institutions. I can applaud the NCAA when it gets something right. This is good; this is progress. But I'm also left laughing at the whole warped system, because it has everyone so uptight that "yeah this is probably a violation" is the default setting, and it really does not need to be this way.