OUR Voice: The National Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC)
“Student-athletes need a voice in the NCAA.” I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard that phrase. It’s one that won’t go away, and is often uttered by many student-athletes. What most of these people don’t know that there is already a group of 32 student-athletes that represent and give college athletes a voice in the NCAA. This committee is known as the National Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), and features representatives from each of the 32 Division I conferences.
I had the opportunity to represent the Western Athletic Conference from July 2012-July 2014. During those two years, I met with several NCAA administrators, including President Emmert, offered input on new legislative proposals that affected student-athletes, and worked with fellow representatives to raise awareness of the committee. I’ve never met a group of people that works harder than National SAAC does. The people elected to this committee are committed to bettering student-athlete well-being and fight for student-athlete rights and representation.
National SAAC meets three times a year, twice at the NCAA Headquarters in Indianapolis (July/October) and once at the NCAA Convention (January), with conference calls between meetings. The meetings in Indianapolis are usually two and a half day “business trips” with meetings starting shortly after you got off the plane. The meeting at Convention lasts four days, usually starting at 8am and lasting well into the night, depending on awards ceremonies. Even though they were short, they were some of the most productive meetings I’ve ever been to. The countless hours spent inside meeting rooms going over legislation have led to so many benefits for student-athletes, including unlimited meals, multi-year scholarships, and allowing high school baseball players to use agents between the draft and start of college.
There are also three sub-committees- Media Team, Student-Athlete Voice Team, and Community Service Team. Each team works on their area of expertise to promote the committee and the student-athlete voice. A list of current National SAAC representatives can be found here. National SAAC also has a representative on 22 NCAA cabinets and committees. A list of NCAA cabinets and committees can be found here.
At the 2014 NCAA Convention in San Diego, National SAAC played a crucial role in the Division I Dialogue sessions. Members of the committee spoke in front of hundreds of athletic directors, presidents, chancellors, coaches, and administrators to fight for student-athlete voting representation on the Council and Board of Directors. The dialogue sessions were one of the first steps in the Division I governance restructure, which also granted the Power Five conferences autonomy. When the Power Five conferences have their meetings and vote, each conference has three student-athlete representatives. The following article breaks down the governance restructure that took place in August of 2014 and is the current model: http://www.ncaa.org/about/resources/media-center/news/board-adopts-new-division-i-structure.
The media is starting to take notice of National SAAC and what it does. It’s exciting to see what the coverage the student-athlete voice is receiving, but there is still work to be done. If you’re a current student-athlete, don’t hesitate to reach out to your current SAAC representative about getting involved or sharing your feedback. Follow @Div1SAAC for the most recent updates and use the hashtag #OURvoice on Twitter.