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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

#OURvoice: 2012 Atlantic 10 In-Person SAAC Meeting


The following blog post is written by Alex Dadds ‘13, George Washington University, Men’s Cross Country, recounting his experience of attending the 2012 A-10 In-Person SAAC meeting in Indianapolis, IN.

INDIANAPOLIS –
Student-Athletes are a unique breed.  Balancing what we as athletes do on a day-to-day basis is not easy, and the NCAA knows that.  As a member of George Washington’s Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), one of the many things we do is to represent all our athletes with a singular voice about different issues.  I also have the privilege to represent George Washington as the Atlantic 10 Conference SAAC representative, which means I report to the conference about our institution’s position on issues and different initiatives we are involved with at the campus SAAC level.  This past weekend, I got the opportunity to attend the 2012 Atlantic 10 In-Person SAAC meeting in Indianapolis, IN which was held in conjunction with the 2012 NCAA Convention.  I just wanted to share my experience and some of the things we covered.

This was my second time attending the in-person meeting on behalf of GW so I know the benefits of this unique opportunity (the last one was in May 2011 in Philadelphia, PA).  One representative from each school attends the meeting and it is facilitated by Jill Redmond, the Assistant Commissioner of the Atlantic 10.  Jill does an absolutely incredible job organizing the meeting and without her it wouldn’t be the same.       

I arrived in Indianapolis Friday afternoon, driving from my hometown in Louisville, KY.  By arriving early, I got the opportunity to sit in on the National Division I SAAC meeting which was an incredible experience.  The DI SAAC is made up of one representative from each of the 31 member conferences.  The group is very diverse which makes it even better.  The representatives are from all over the country and compete in a wide range of sports from football to lacrosse.  One of the many things they discussed was the impact the student-athlete voice has on decisions made by the NCAA Board of Directors.  An example of the student-athlete impact can be seen with the proposed legislation that was to be voted on by the NCAA regarding the elimination of foreign tours (international training trips, competitions, etc.).  This was a cause most student-athletes were passionate about not eliminating because of the benefits such experiences bring to teams.  As a result of this unified student-athlete voice, the Board chose not to pass the legislation and athletes still have the opportunity to take part in foreign tours.  Being able to meet all the great people on the DI SAAC and sitting in on their meeting was a great way to start the weekend. 

Friday evening, after everyone with the A-10 arrived, we attended the NCAA Honors Celebration.  Prior to the celebration, we knew a little about what to expect and that it was a pretty big deal to get an opportunity to attend.  It turned out to be an unbelievable experience and the Honors Celebration was easily the highlight of the weekend.  Awarded at the Honors Celebration were the six Silver Anniversary award winners, eight Top VIII award winners, two Inspiration award winners, and the one Theodore Roosevelt Award winner.  The stories about each award winner is honestly so much to talk about and they are all great stories, so here is the NCAA press release about the event.  

Alex Dadds, GW '13, pictured with the winner of
the 2012 Theodore Roosevelt Award, Will Allen

Following the Celebration, there was a dessert reception where we got to meet all the award winners. Being able to talk to Doris Burke about college basketball and David Robinson about the benefits of going to school in Washington, DC was something I would have never imagined I’d ever be doing in my lifetime. The winner of the Theodore Roosevelt Award, Will Allen, was someone I spent a lot of my time talking to. Mr. Allen was a former basketball star at Miami (Florida) and he is the current CEO of the nonprofit Growing Power which has spread sustainable practices like “urban agriculture” to less privileged communities around the world. He’s initiating programs in Kenya and I spoke with him for a while about a foundation a good friend of mine has started in that country called The Kenyan Kids Foundation. We ended up trading contact information and I plan on meeting with him further in the spring when he comes to DC for the Clinton Global Initiative. Again, something I would have never expected having the opportunity to do.


Curtis Holloman, Director of Leadership Development
at the NCAA,speaks to A-10 SAAC representatives
Saturday began at 7am with breakfast and a meeting with Atlantic 10 Commissioner Bernadette McGlade.  Commissioner McGlade was a women’s basketball student-athlete at the University of North Carolina.  She spoke to us for a while about her position, how she got to where she is today, issues she’s dealing with as commissioner and several other topics.  Listening to her from a student-athlete’s perspective, you can just tell how passionate she is about her job and the overall well-being of student-athletes everywhere.  Following our discussion with Commissioner McGlade, our group took a short walk to the NCAA National Offices in downtown Indianapolis.  We spent the rest of the afternoon at the NCAA, which is an extraordinary building.  There were terrific presentations from a selected group of NCAA staffers which included Paula Buckhaulter, Assistant Director of Championships Marketing; Katie Willet, Associate Director of Educational Programs; Dana Thomas, Assistant Director of Social Media Strategies; Curtis Holloman, Director of Leadership Development and Renee Gomila, Associate Director of Enforcement.  All of their presentations were very unique and specific, and they shed some light on the everyday functions of the NCAA which gives us athletes the opportunities to compete.  Without their work, student-athletes wouldn’t be in the positions we are today.    

Although Sunday was our final day, we got back to work at 8am.  We began the morning meeting with Jackie Campbell, NCAA Director of Division I.  It was a privilege to have Ms. Campbell come and speak to us further about the structure of the NCAA.  She also emphasized the importance of the student-athlete voice and how our positions are always brought up in the NCAA Board discussions.  We then had the opportunity to hear from Sotiris Aggelou and Anthony Griggs from the motivational apparel company CRONS.  Most student-athletes in the A-10 are familiar with CRONS because they make all our championship apparel.  To be honest, I never knew the whole back story about the company; I just knew we always received cool products from them for competing in a conference championship.  CRONS is actually an acronym that stands for Come Ready Or Never Start, and all their products have some motivational message on them.  Although the company’s competitors are the sport apparel giants Nike, Under Armor, and Adidas, they see themselves separate from these companies because CRONS is marketed as motivational apparel with a unique connection to student-athletes.  Despite the fact that CRONS is a fairly small company compared to others in the industry, Mr. Griggs and Mr. Aggelou emphasized that they’re doing a lot to build the brand by expanding into retail and nutrition.  Mr. Griggs also gave a presentation about the CRONS Achievers Program that is working to build student-athlete leaders on campuses across the country.  One unique aspect of the company is their focus on push-ups.  Yes, the simple exercise of doing pushups.  They told us how they do pushups at the office all the time, and every employee is involved.  Mr. Aggelou said that he has promised 50,000 recorded pushups this calendar year (equates to 34 pushups four times a day!).  Naturally, part of their presentation involved us all doing pushups to see who could do the most in a row.  I have to brag about myself a little now and mention that I did the most in the group by doing 103, shocking coming from a cross country runner.  I know our strength coach Ms. Brandi Walker would be proud!  But in all seriousness, the CRONS presentation was great.  They’re a unique company with a fantastic message.  I wish them the best of luck expanding the CRONS brand around the world.

 The meeting concluded with that, and I think I can speak for everyone when saying what an amazing experience it was.  One point I tried to portray to those who were attending their first in-person SAAC meeting was how unique and special this opportunity is.  By creating these inner-conference friendships is a huge advantage to everyone.  Building our student-athlete network is something many of our peers don’t have the opportunity to do so it’s vital that we share what we learn from each other with student-athletes and administrators on our respective campuses.  I would just like to thank everyone who took part in it, and I look forward to continue our work of expanding the student-athlete voice.  The student-athletes in attendance were: Alexandra Zinn (Charlotte), Matt Buse (Dayton), Shannon Murphy (Duquesne), Jessica Crowley (Fordham), Adam Kammler (La Salle), Callie Sweigart (Massachusetts), Tristany Liekem (Rhode Island), Catherine Ostoich (Richmond), Lindsey King (Saint Joseph's), Carly Schumacher (Saint Louis), Danielle Frye (St. Bonaventure), Jenni Abercrumbie (Temple), and Aaron Siekmann (Xavier).


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