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January 11, 2011

SAAC: What's it all about?

By: Reyna Gilbert

The Student-Athlete Advisory Committee participates in many outreach projects, including collecting toys for the Montgomery County Christmas Store.

Twice a month, 40 student-athletes meet to discuss team updates, community outreach initiatives and ways to increase attendance at home athletics events. Is this a team meeting? Not quite.

This is a description of a typical Student-Athlete Advisory Committee meeting, more commonly known around the Department of Athletics as SAAC. Through this committee’s efforts, Virginia Tech student-athletes have collected cans for local food banks, donated toys to the Montgomery County Christmas Store and raised money for Relay for Life and victims of the earthquake in Haiti.

It’s most important to note “student-athlete.” The Virginia Tech SAAC is a student-run organization advised by the Office of Student Life staff and recognized by the Division of Student Affairs. It was started in 1997 as a mandate from the NCAA that all member institutions have SAACs on their respective campuses. Essentially, student-athletes assemble to provide insight on the student-athlete experience and input on the rules, regulations and policies that affect student-athletes’ lives.

Each year, two members from each team, as well as athletic training students, serve as SAAC representatives. They are nominated by coaches and previous representatives and act as the “voice” for their teams. Kelly Phillips, a senior on the women’s track & field team, was selected co-president of SAAC for the 2010-2011 academic year. Not only is student-athletes’ participation integral to the growth of the department, but they also play a key role in disseminating information to their teammates and coaches.

So what does it mean to be a member of Virginia Tech’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee? For one, it means having a forum for student-athletes to voice ideas and make suggestions for implementing change or improving upon the student-athlete experience. It also means knowing that their opinions count and their administration takes their concerns to heart.

NCAA legislation also requires that all member conferences have SAACs, and this year, Phillips was selected as the Chair of the ACC SAAC. The purpose of the committee is to provide general feedback and institutional positions to the ACC on proposed NCAA legislation, conference policies and procedures and any other issues that affect student-athlete welfare. While Phillips serves as chair, the remainder of the SAAC leadership team also serves on the ACC SAAC. Co-president and wrestler David Marone, vice president and men’s tennis student-athlete Pedro Graber and secretary and cross country senior Eddie Judge have all been afforded leadership opportunities through their campus and conference SAAC.

One of the purposes of SAAC is to participate in annual community outreach efforts. Each November, brother/sister teams are established as a way to promote friendly competition and collect toys for the Montgomery County Christmas Store (MCCS). They also help the MCCS staff collect toys at a men’s and women’s basketball game. Last year, the group introduced a new tradition by putting on a tailgate before the Thursday night home football game in November. Food, drinks and games were provided for all of the student-athletes and coaches as a way to enhance unity between the teams, encourage support for Hokie athletics and promote SAAC and its efforts. Following Haiti’s devastating earthquake last January, SAAC sprung into action along with members of the Hokies United campaign to collect monetary donations at the men’s basketball game against North Carolina. It’s these and other outreach efforts that allow Virginia Tech student-athletes to show appreciation to a community that supports them unconditionally.

The Virginia Tech Student-Athlete Advisory Committee strives to enhance the overall image of student-athletes by serving as positive role models for the department and university. It is evident by its dedication to community outreach and personal development that SAAC is making permanent, positive changes that will leave behind a lasting impression.