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DII presidents, SAAC discuss key issues facing student-athletes

Mental health and name, image and likeness among topics groups deliberated

Members of the national Division II Student-Athlete Advisory Committee met with Division II presidents and chancellors Friday morning to discuss key issues facing today’s student-athletes.

The conversations — which centered around student-athlete mental health, the role of SAAC on campus, and student-athlete name, image and likeness — occurred during the annual Division II Presidents and Chancellors Breakfast at the NCAA Convention in Anaheim, California.

Division II SAAC chair Alex Shillow, a football student-athlete from Texas A&M-Commerce, set the table for the discussion by educating attendees about the SAAC structure and providing an overview of the priority initiatives of the national committee, made up of 26 student-athlete representatives from around the country. The presidents and chancellors learned about the national Division II SAAC’s ongoing effort to promote the “Total Package Student-Athlete,” a term encapsulating the group’s four main goals:

  • To work to break the stigma around mental health and promote a total state of health and well-being for student-athletes.
  • To support diversity and inclusion efforts at all levels of their institutions.
  • To help student-athletes prepare for life after sports through professional development resources and awareness.
  • To encourage young athletes to play more than one sport rather than specializing early in their lives.

 

The SAAC members then led roundtable discussions with the presidents and chancellors, providing an opportunity to dive more deeply into challenges, ideas and best practices around mental health, the student-athlete voice, and name, image and likeness.

“While we believe student-athletes are beginning to feel more comfortable in sharing their issues, we know there is still stigma associated with it,” Shillow said.

What’s being done on Division II campuses to break that stigma? What mental health education is being provided to coaches, support staff, professors and others who interact with student-athletes? And how can SAAC help? Around the room, SAAC members and college and university leaders shared personal experiences and jotted down notes as they deliberated.

Angelo State President Brian May shared how his school has been intentional about investing in full-time counselors on campus and ensuring student-athletes know about the resources available to them. “You have to be purposeful,” May said, noting that these messages must be repeated for them to stick with student-athletes.

The SAAC members also shared highlights from recent SAAC discussions about potential rule changes related to student-athlete name, image and likeness and exchanged feedback with the presidential leaders.

Following the robust discussions, the presidents and chancellors heard from Katrice Albert, NCAA executive vice president of inclusion and human resources, and Brian Hainline, NCAA chief medical officer, who provided updates and recommendations for the presidential leaders about diversity and inclusion and health and safety in college athletics.