WHEN ASSISTANT ATHLETIC director--sports dietitian Amy Culp started full-time at the University of Texas in 2012 as the school's lead sports dietitian, NCAA rules essentially limited the school to providing only one meal per day at the Longhorn Dining Hall. Says Culp, "It was our only opportunity to provide real food at the time." The rest of the day, the school could only offer fruit, nuts and bagels (but no cream cheese or jelly). There were no wood-fired pizza ovens or grain bowls or sushi spreads in sight.
Fast-forward five years, and Longhorn athletes now have a sparkling $7.5 million nutrition facility all to themselves. The Texas Athletics Nutrition Center (TANC) opened in 2015 and is located in Texas Memorial Stadium, just a few steps from football coach Tom Herman's office and the team's workout facilities. Athletes can learn how to cook with hands-on classes, how to shop with a dietitian and how to budget so that they can avoid breaking the bank on healthy ingredients. They can create meal plans, long-term goals—and a personalized pasta dish.
In 2014 the NCAA passed new guidelines that allowed schools to provide unlimited snacks and more flexibility for Division I student athletes. So began a new era for nutrition in college sports, and Texas is not the only school with deep pockets devoting serious resources to it. A number of other big-time schools have upgraded their facilities. Purdue started a community garden where students can grow produce. Auburn spent $6.6 million on a "wellness kitchen," and Baylor opened a $3 million nutrition center. For big-time programs looking for an edge, it's time to power up.