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UCLA football: Bruins ready to fill plates under new NCAA food rule

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UCLA football players might be receiving more than food for thought.

The NCAA Legislative Council proposed a rule change this week that would allow universities to provide athletes unlimited meals and snacks. If the Division I Board of Directors approves the change at its meeting Thursday, the rule would go into effect Aug. 1.

That is certain to whet the appetite of Bruins' players.

"You can never complain about getting more food," said quarterback Brett Hundley.

How much of a meal allowance universities have been allowed to provide athletes became a bigger issue this month. Connecticut guard Shabazz Napier told reporters at the Final Four that there were nights he went to bed hungry.

"I think this was overdue," UCLA receiver Jordan Payton said. "This is good for college athletics."

Payton said UCLA players haven't "lacked anything." But getting more food "is a great thing for us, and for everybody."

UCLA officials were still waiting for an interpretation of what the new rule would allow. Associate athletic director Rip Scherer, who oversees UCLA football, said he has discussed the matter with associate athletic director Matt Elliott, who is in charge of the compliance office.

"I think it will give us more flexibility, Scherer said. "My understanding, and I'm not sure on this, the interpretation of 'snack' is greatly broadened."

As of now, Scherer said, UCLA can provide one training-table meal and one snack per day. A snack can be "nuts, bagels, fruit, things like that," Scherer said.

The costs are deducted from the meal allowance provided in a player's scholarship.

"Our training table is outstanding," UCLA Coach Jim Mora said. "Our people do a nice job of it. I haven't felt like we have been limited at all by our budget."

The new rule will allow UCLA, and other programs, to do more.

"These kids exert so much energy and there are so many more demands placed on them than people would ever imagine," Mora said. "I think it is a step in the right direction, a real positive step."

The food issue is part of an ongoing debate about whether football players deserve more benefits considering the amount money the sport can bring into athletic departments.

"I have some ideas, like everyone, when I think something is wrong," Payton said. "I think this needed to be done."

Scherer said athletic department officials will continue to monitor the proposal.

"The thing that happens with these rulings by the NCAA, whatever committees hand down these rulings, is the interpretations follow," Scherer said. "That's where we really get into the meat and potatoes of what the rules are."

Which, in this case, will give players more meat and potatoes.

Anger management?

UCLA defensive backs were at times edgy and, at other times, vicious during Thursday's practice.

It produced results. Cornerback Ishmael Adams intercepted three passes.

"We're just trying to be the best secondary in the nation," safety Randall Goforth said.

They certainly could have been the most feisty secondary in the nation. The Bruins were not in pads, making the rough play annoying to receivers.

At one point, receiver Tyler Scott took exception and made his feelings known to a few defensive players. Cornerback Priest Willis ran in and tackled Scott, starting a small melee.

Order was restored quickly and Mora held an impromptu, and loud, team meeting at midfield to express his displeasure.

Extra points

Receiver Thomas Duarte left practice on crutches after suffering a sprained right ankle. There was no structural damage. … Offensive lineman John Lopez missed a second consecutive practice because of illness.

chris.foster@latimes.com

Twitter: @cfosterlatimes

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