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Alpha Fund aims to end Wolf Pack's run as 'nutrient-deficient athletic department'

Nevada softball
The Alpha Fund is aiming at improving nutrient services for Wolf Pack female athletes. (David Calvert/Nevada Athletics)

The Nevada athletic department's recently developed Alpha Fund aimed at improving nutrition funding for its female athletes could be a game-changer for those programs.

Matt Eck, the Wolf Pack's long-time associate athletic director of strength and conditioning, said nutrition is the "X factor" in athletic performance, something that often gets pushed to the side by college athletes.

Eck, who has been at Nevada since 2001, said this isn't the first time a project of this kind has been talked about, although the hiring of president Brian Sandoval helped get the ball rolling to make this program possible.

"His fingerprints are all over this Alpha Fund, and his fingerprints are are all over the athletic department," Eck said on this week's Wolf Pack All Access. "The involvement that he's had within the past 6 months has been incredible. To be able to be able to have a conversation with him and to know the involvement level of what he's doing and the support that we get from him and his staff, that's incredible. All those messages are passed down from Doug Knuth and our administration on down to us as employees within the university system. So you can absolutely tell his presence on social media, his presence regarding our games and anything involving athletics. And now with this Alpha Fund formed, this thing is really a brainchild of his."

Eck said Nevada constantly gets athletes who come to practice without eating breakfast and without knowing where their next meal is coming from.

"For us to be able to give this to our female athletes that historically have never had something like this other than the protein smoothies and things like that that we make here in house in our kitchen, those are the things that they've had access to over the past 10 years, but nothing like what they're seeing now," Eck said. "Nothing like the fresh food and the micronutrient level that we're we're looking at now and the importance of those things and what we're trying to get accomplished on the court and on the field."

While Eck's mission is to educate his student-athletes about nutrition, he hopes this program will give female athletes a deeper understanding of nutrition.

"The thing that I like to get across to our student-athletes is that we are not a calorie-deficient country," Eck said. "There are opportunities for calories all over the place, but we are definitely a nutrient-deficient country and a nutrient-deficient athletic department. So when we partner with Sodexo on campus and go through the meal planning for what we're doing, that's what we're looking at. We're looking at the nutrient density and the most bang for your buck, and how we can get the most to our student athletes and be efficient with our money and be efficient for all of our student-athletes. Those are the types of things that we spend an awful lot of time researching and looking at and diving into when it comes to the nutrition side because it has that much of a peek into what we're trying to do from an athletic-performance side."

Nevada said it raised nearly $30,000 through 10 donations before the official announcement of the program March 3. The goal is to raise $300,000 annually. Rhonda Bennett, senior associate athletic director and senior woman administrator, said Nevada has been able to start providing breakfast three days a week and hopes to increase the program to five meals per week for all women's sports.

"Our goal is to have bigger, stronger, faster athletes," Eck said. "That's why we're here. Nutrition is something that is often swept underneath the rug, especially in college kids that are literally just trying to scrape by on their on their stipend, and some kids aren't on scholarships, and some are. So nutrition becomes the thing that gets swept underneath the rug. We know how important it is as coaches and as administrators. We know how important our nutrition is to what we're doing specifically here and in strength conditioning. But if we're going to ask them to compete as hard as they do on the court and in the pool and everywhere else where they play, and we're going to ask them to work as hard as we demand in (the weight room), then we have to be able to fuel them. We have to be able to set them up for success."

You can watch Matt Eck's full Wolf Pack All Access interview below.

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