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DII national SAAC looks to enhance connection with campuses

Committee also establishes formal partnership with Team Impact, new model for Make-A-Wish contributions

This year, members of the Division II national Student-Athlete Advisory Committee are embracing opportunities to participate in the Division II governance process in unprecedented ways.

For the first time, two national SAAC representatives are serving as active, voting members on the Division II Management Council. And in January, national SAAC will issue its vote on each piece of legislation considered on the floor of the NCAA Convention. The changes – which the national SAAC championed last year and which were approved in January at the 2015 NCAA Convention – ensure Division II college athletes have a voice in decisions. But at this summer’s Division II national SAAC meeting, it was clear that the college athletes on this committee still have more work to do. 

“Getting the SAAC voice proposals passed, we felt we are at a time where we can enhance the student-athlete voice even more,” said Chris Pike, vice chair of the Division II national SAAC, who competes in football at Gannon University. “We got the snowball started. Now we can get it rolling down the road.”

A key topic for national SAAC and its annual summit with the Division II Management Council held in Indianapolis on July 24-26 was communication among student-athlete committees at the campus, conference and national levels. The Division II student-athlete leaders discussed ideas for launching a Division II SAAC network, a goal that will include educating campus SAACs, encouraging their increased involvement and keeping them informed of work being done at the national level.

As part of this initiative, national SAAC plans to create a video depicting the role of student-athlete committees in the Division II decision-making process. A student-athlete subcommittee will draft a script over the coming months and present it for review at the next national SAAC meeting in November. 

“We want to let people know there are common issues on DII campuses that SAAC can address, and let them know they’re not alone in the issues they’re going through,” Pike said.

Partnerships with Make-A-Wish, Team Impact

The national SAAC is also looking ahead to a new model for distributing Division II money to Make-A-Wish and a new partnership with Team Impact.

Money from championship and enforcement fines has traditionally been used to support the Division II partnership with Make-A-Wish on behalf of the student-athletes. SAAC members asked that the division earmark this money in a more specific fashion. Last week, the Division II Presidents Council approved the new model.

Beginning this year, a portion of the fine money will be used to ensure all 24 Division II conferences have the opportunity to host a Make-A-Wish reveal party at one of their campuses. Before, schools needed to raise $8,500 to host a wish reveal; now, if a conference does not have a school that reaches the fundraising minimum, SAAC will award the highest-fundraising school in that conference with enough money to reach the $8,500 mark. 

Additionally, SAAC requested that some of the remaining money be used to enter into a formal partnership with Massachusetts-based Team Impact, an organization that pairs children with life-threatening or chronic illnesses with college sports teams. The student-athletes felt compelled to expand financial support to the organization that has been growing across Division II campuses, and which aligns closely with their established partnership with Make-A-Wish.

Finally, any remaining fine money will go toward general donations to Make-A-Wish. A Division II SAAC subcommittee will determine the exact allocations donated each year.

Other actions

Also at the latest SAAC meeting, the student athletes:

  • Weighed in on legislative concepts that will be up for vote at Convention in January.
  • Formed a subcommittee that will draft a statement on behalf of national SAAC on the NCAA’s Confederate flag policy. 
  • Filmed an “It’s On Us” video alongside Division II Management Council members in support of the White House campaign to address sexual assault on campuses.