It was a staple of quarterback Scott Tolzien’s five years at the University of Wisconsin.
Tolzien certainly isn’t complaining, but he’s not sure he would have made it without his afternoon helping of a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich.
That’s why, in the midst of all of the changes coming to college football for the upcoming season and beyond, the thing that grabbed Tolzien’s attention was the unlimited meals and snacks for approximately 900 UW student-athletes, which will go into effect Aug. 1.
“The first thing that caught my eye — because I remember eating peanut butter and jelly every day at lunch — was the meals,” Tolzien said on Monday during the Legends of Wisconsin Classic golf outing at University Ridge.
“I thought that was an awesome step, just because I remember that was a bit of a pain every day. You had a mad scramble to class every morning. Then you are busting over to the (Camp Randall) stadium for meetings.
“Lunch was kind of an afterthought. I thought that was a great step.”
There is so much about the upcoming college football season that remains a mystery. Even recent Badgers players, like San Francisco 49ers rookie linebacker Chris Borland — who tries to keep up on such matters — find it difficult.
“It’s funny how scholarships are great opportunities, but a lot of guys are scraping by toward the end of the month,” Borland said of his UW playing days. “When you are asked to play at this level, in front of 100,000 people and others making a lot of money — while you are eating Ramen noodles to do so — it’s not right.
“I’m glad it’s changing. I think it’s going in the right direction.”
That seemed to be the opinion of the vast majority of players who shared their opinions at this event. But it was not the only viewpoint.
“I’m on the fence with a lot of things, how I feel,” said former Badgers safety Jim Leonhard, who has played nine NFL seasons but is unsigned for the coming year. “I love college athletics as a whole. I want to make sure they are still good. I want to make sure nothing blows up.”
The changes are coming fast and furious, so it’s easy to understand why some current and former players feel uneasy.
What it looks like right now is “full cost of attendance” scholarships are expected to be passed this summer and likely in place for the upcoming season. Full-cost scholarships could mean an extra $3,000 to $3,600 per UW student-athlete for the school year.
Indiana University announced its own student-athlete bill of rights last week, a 10-point document that included such things as a lifetime degree guarantee, which would allow student-athletes to finish their degrees if they leave school early, provided they were eligible for two seasons.
It also included comprehensive medical exams that were once freely available only incoming scholarship athletes, but would now include walk-ons. Every student-athlete would also receive an iPad and, curiously, a blazer.
Yet some of the former college athletes at the golf outing expressed concerns.
“To me, it’s kind of a slippery slope,” Leonhard said. “There are so many different things that could happen. Where are they going to draw the lines?
“I think it’s going to end up being a positive thing for the athletes, which I see as a great thing. The good universities will figure it out; they’ll make it work. I think there are going to be some brighter days ahead. Hopefully, there’s not a whole lot of downfall from it.”
One concern lurking out there is what happens when some schools can offer bigger stipends than other schools, due to different costs of living. Could bidding wars erupt over players?
Just about all of the former student-athletes who were interviewed have their own stories about trying to make ends meet — some worse than others.
Eagles safety Chris Maragos, a former Badger who won a Super Bowl last season with the Seattle Seahawks, told the story of former UW defensive back Prince Moody, who had a hard time making ends meet on a scholarship, in part due to his mom’s debilitating disease that robbed her of her motor skills.
“He had a really tough family situation,” Maragos said. “His mom was a quadriplegic. He had younger brothers and sisters, and no financial support at all. There were times we’d go out to eat and share a meal together.”
But former UW offensive lineman Ryan Groy, who signed a free agent contract with the Chicago Bears in May, said he didn’t have many issues with meals — helped by the fact he could go home to Middleton when needed.
“I was fortunate to have a scholarship my whole career, which was nice,” Groy said. “You struggle sometimes, like in the summer, there’s not enough funding. I don’t think there is enough money in the end for rent and all of that stuff.
“But I think they’re starting to figure it out, giving out stipends. It’s definitely going in the right direction.”
That’s one of the many reasons this endeavor is such a challenge, because the circumstances can be different for everyone.
“But some guys, you see them at the facility a lot,” Borland said. “They’re drinking protein shakes as a meal sometimes. It’s not horrible, but it’s not right for how much money they are making for the NCAA.”
While the former college athletes would have loved the chance at full-cost scholarships during their time, nobody who expressed his opinion sounded upset.
“I don’t think it’s long overdue,” Groy said of the changes. “I think they just understood they needed to do a little more. I think they’re going in the right directions.”
But Groy thinks there is a problem going too far.
“Upping the scholarship checks and giving them more meals is plenty, in my opinion,” he said. “I don’t think they need to keep going further.”