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Asking NCAA compliance stupid questions about athlete food rules

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You have serious questions about the NCAA's new rules on the feeding of college players. So we contacted a university compliance officer in one of America's tastiest cities. We did not ask any of your serious questions.

Ribs.
Ribs.
Flickr user elsiehui

You guys remember the NCAA, right? That for-profit-non-profit governing body built atop the ever-loosening concept of amateurism currently burning to the ground? You know, the one dirtier than Miami?

A few months back those guys decided to loosen some of the pesky verbiage prohibiting how often schools could feed athletes. This came after a few Oklahoma football players were found to have eaten too much pasta at a school eventamong other events, and for the first time in American history a Heartlander eating too many carbs actually spurred positive nutrition reform.

So to help you, the college sports fan, make sense of the meals reform, I've consulted with legal expert Ryan Nanni to provide stupid, stupid questions for Jason Gray, assistant athletic director of compliance at the University of Memphis, who was unwise enough to return our emails.

Also, be sure to follow Memphis compliance on Twitter.

Now let's eat!

SB Nation: What does the NCAA rulebook say about breakfast for dinner?

Gray: The NCAA rules do not dictate exactly what items can be served for a particular meal, not since the old fruits, nuts, and bagels rule.

If a university employee were to completely submerge a Rolex watch or handful of gold bullion in a Golden Corral Chocolate Wonderfall and then serve said item to a player, would this be considered an illegal benefit under the unlimited food revision? It’s (somewhat) edible, after all.

Giving a student-athlete a gift like a watch or currency like gold bouillon would be illegal per NCAA legislation, even if it were covered and submerged into an allowable food item like chocolate sauce or even marshmallow cream.

Are you concerned that, given these new rules, schools will try to one-up each other by offering more and more fanciful and delicious breakfast cereals? A Lucky Charms race, if you will?

Yes, a gold leaf buffet table would be allowable, but not very healthy.

I would anticipate every institution to utilize these new rules to the best of their ability to benefit their programs and student-athletes as much as possible. A wide assortment of different brands of breakfast cereals would certainly be within the legislation to provide each day.

What is the Memphis athletic department protocol for any player requesting Carolina-style BBQ sauce? Has that ever happened? Probably not. You guys don’t even have a lacrosse team.

To the best of my knowledge, we have never had anyone request any style of BBQ other than Memphis-style. I do not believe Carolina-style is even made in this area.

In some states -- let's say "Schmarkansas," for example -- food is the only form of currency. Are schools still allowed to feed their players as much as they like?

In such a strange situation as that of Schmarkansas, where food is the only currency, I would imagine we would still be able to feed the student-athletes an unlimited amount of food. However, we probably would have to make sure they consume it on the premises and are not allowed to-go boxes.

What if the school provides nutrition in the form of a very, very undercooked (live) chicken. Could that player keep and care for that chicken in order to sell its eggs to a local gastropub? Would he have to eat the live chicken to stay compliant?

Providing a student-athlete with a live animal would be an extra benefit, much like providing them a pet. If a student-athlete did request a live chicken to eat, for some reason, I could foresee it being a situation where they do have to eat it on the premises in order to keep from being provided the extra benefit of a pet or livestock.

Are you concerned that a popular Tiger basketball star might try to sell an autographed, half-eaten burrito on eBay? (Don't act like this couldn't happen. We both know what college sports fans are like.)

Memphis basketball fans certainly are fanatical about Tiger basketball and would be interested in purchasing almost anything owned by a Tiger basketball player. We do try and monitor the Internet and social media to see if any personal or athletic items are being sold by student-athletes and others. If a personal item is sold with a price based on the athletic reputation of the student-athlete, that would be a violation.

Do nutritional guidelines limit which foods schools can serve in unlimited quantities? In other words, could Alabama install a Fun Dip station or run Hi-C through its waterfall?

The NCAA has said they will not place restrictions on institutions on what they serve and how often. Institutional discretion is the key. However, a school may not use this legislation to circumvent financial aid regulations. I would imagine most athletic departments will seek advice from nutritionists before actually deciding what they will serve.

Hey, we finally joined Facebook!

You know how sometimes you watch one of those fancy dessert contest shows, and the baker's all "oh yes, we're going to finish this cake off with some gold leaf on the top?" Is it okay to just give a student-athlete a whole bunch of edible gold leaf now?

If it's a food item, we can give it to them at our discretion, per the new legislation. So yes, a gold leaf buffet table would be allowable, but not very healthy.

Under the new NCAA ruling, could a university renovate its team meeting facilities into a Dave & Buster's, as long as there’s never an unlimited tokens night?

Currently, many institutions have team meeting and lounge facilities that include video game consoles and televisions. And providing team entertainment in association with athletic activities is permissible. So opening such a facility to use before or after team meetings and/or practices would be allowable.

What about edible diamonds? Is that a thing? T. Boone Pickens is probably working on it, right?

I have never heard of edible diamonds. But if they exist, I would say we can serve them, as long as they are considered food items. However, I would discourage allowing to-go boxes for these items as well.

Elvis question: could Memphis or another area university apply for a waiver to serve peanut butter, banana, and Quaalude sandwiches, on the grounds of religious custom?

Such a sandwich would not be allowed, as it contains an illegal drug that would also cause a positive drug test and render a student-athlete ineligible.

Is it true that if a player eats salad three times a week, that counts towards a school's Academic Progress Rate score? What if it's pasta salad?

Food items eaten is not a factor in the APR of an institution.

Can a Letter of Intent be signed in frosting?

If the signature was legible and did indeed stay on the National Letter of Intent -- meaning still legible after faxing, scanning and emailing, or mailing -- then it would be acceptable format for signing.

The NCAA famously ruled that pasta is not a snack. If "grit and grind" were a side dish, would it be a starch, and therefore a meal? We think it sounds like a playful rice medley.

Simply by being a starch, something is not automatically a meal instead of a snack. That ruling can be loosely interpreted by each member institution. The NCAA manual cites a hamburger or a pizza as snacks. Being from the South, I know what a grit is, and it is indeed starchy and a breakfast side dish. I do not know what a grind would be.

This is very important: if a player is caught eating Chicago deep dish pizza, will he be expelled or merely suspended for the season?

If a University of Memphis student-athlete is observed eating a Chicago deep dish pizza by one of his coaches, I am fairly certain they would not be suspended from the team or expelled from the institution. What would probably happen is that they would be required to work that heavy meal off with some extra conditioning activities, which would of course not be allowed to go over the NCAA's maximum daily and weekly limits for practice and workouts.