Look on the campus of most colleges or universities throughout the country and you are bound to see a rather peculiar acronym – SAAC. NCAA legislation mandates that all member institutions and conferences have SAACs. So what is SAAC? The acronym stands for Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, and it is a committee made up of student-athletes assembled to provide insight on the student-athlete experience.
The purpose of SAAC may vary across conferences and institutions; however, the following five points reflect the primary purposes of SAAC :
- Generate a student-athlete voice within the institution.
- Solicit student-athlete response to proposed NCAA legislation.
- Suggest potential NCAA legislation.
- Organize community service efforts.
- Create a vehicle for student-athlete representation on campus-wide or conference-wide committees.
At the University of the District of Columbia, Director of Athletics Patricia Thomas has assembled a staff that is extremely devoted to providing its student-athletes with experiences that enhance their comprehensive development. In fact, many members of the staff – Ms. Thomas included – were once student-athletes themselves, and truly understand the student-athlete experience. SAAC provides student-athletes an outlet for voicing their opinions, ideas, and even grievances. The 2011-12 SAAC, for example, determined that the department and the student-athlete body could do more to welcome its new recruits and transfers on campus. Therefore, it was decided that the next year’s SAAC would host an ice cream social when all the athletes arrived on campus for the 2012-13 school year. The event proved to be a great success and helped introduce the new student-athletes to not just their teammates, but the entire Firebird Community.
Just as the UDC athletic staff provides student-athletes a voice on campus, so too does the NCAA when drawing up legislation at its conventions. The NCAA not only asks its student-athletes for feedback on its proposed legislation, it tries to solicit their ideas as potential legislation. The decisions the NCAA makes have a profound impact on student-athletes’ lives. Whether or not a coach can call or text a potential recruit, prospective student-athlete visitation protocol, the number of games/events in a season a coach can schedule, the timetable on pre-season practices, mandated holiday breaks, amateur status and student-athlete eligibility requirements, rules regarding social media, and much, much more. If, hypothetically, a student-athlete at UDC had his or her own idea or wanted to voice an opinion on a particular NCAA-related issue, he or she could reach out to a SAAC member at this school. The school SAAC could then make their case to the East Coast Conference SAAC, and one representative from the ECC SAAC could present to the Division II SAAC. The Division II SAAC consists of one student-athlete representative from each of the DII multi-sport voting conferences, one student-athlete representative from Division II independent institutions and two student-athlete at-large positions. It affects the NCAA legislative process via an annual summit held each July with the Division II Management Council, during which members of the SAAC have an opportunity to interact with members of the Management Council on proposed NCAA legislation and current Division II issues. Also, committee members participate in the NCAA Convention each January, where they express the student-athlete voice on collective concerns regarding proposed Division II legislation.
While SAAC is serving its own constituents’ (student-athletes) best interests in NCAA legislative matters, they are also serving their community through engagement activities and charitable donations. This year, the Firebirds SAAC helped organize and execute several community service projects including: Men’s Soccer and Volleyball Youth Days, SAAC Fights Hunger, Coaches vs. Cancer, and Make-A-Wish Week. The Make-A-Wish fundraising campaign is an integral part of the overall Division II “Life in Balance” philosophy. In fact, Division II was the first NCAA division to sponsor a division-wide community service campaign, and during 2010-11, Division II institutions and student-athletes raised more than $405,000 for the Foundation. Over the last nine years, the Division II SAAC has raised $2,409,536, helping to grant many wishes for courageous kids.
Lastly, SAAC creates a vehicle for student-athlete representation on campus-wide or conference-wide committees. Recently, SAAC Vice President, junior Kaydian Jones was selected to represent the University of the District of Columbia and the entire East Coast Conference at the NCAA Division II Identity Workshop. There she was able to listen to a variety of speakers and NCAA Division II representatives and watch a presentation about the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The workshop covered topics such as the “I Chose Division II” brand and the Division II hexagon of attributes (passion, sportsmanship, learning, service, resourcefulness, and balance), game day environment and social media awareness.
To sum up, the purpose of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee is to provide insight on and ultimately improve the student-athlete experience. This is accomplished by giving student-athletes a voice on campus and at the NCAA Convention, and an opportunity to participate in community service and serve on campus-wide or conference-wide committees.
The following student-athletes will serve as SAAC executives in 2013-14:
Roque Hernandez – President
Kaydian Jones – Vice President
Hillary Mugun – Secretary