» «
36th NACDA Convention
Salt Lake City, Utah
June 10-13, 2001

NCAA Division III Breakout Session
Improving Your Student-Athlete Advisory Committee
Tuesday, June 12, 10:00 - 10:50 a.m.

Art Eason

I'm Art Eason, director of athletics at William Paterson University. Before we begin, I would like to recognize Southwest Recreational Industries, who is our audio-visual sponsor today. Our session this morning is entitled Improving Your Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

Speaking today will be Michael Worley, a student at Johns Hopkins University and a member of the NCAA Division III Student-Athlete Committee; John Schael, director of athletics at Washington University; and Susan Peal who is our staff liaison from the NCAA for the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

Before we can improve it, let's look at what it is and how it came about. Colleges and the NCAA have always had rules governing our student's athletics participation. At most institutions, the student-athlete had little to say about the rules by which they were governed. You might say it was like the Revolution, taxation without representation. As concern grew for the student-athlete's welfare, NCAA member-institutions decided to take some type of action. Legislation was proposed in 1995 at the annual convention requiring each member-institution to establish a Student-Athlete Advisory Committee for its students. This proposal was overwhelmingly adopted on January 10, 1995 and became effective, August 1, 1995. It appeared in the NCAA manual in section six under Institutional Control Governance. It's listed as Constitution 6.1.4 and it reads, "Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. Each institution shall establish a Student-Athlete Advisory Committee for its student-athletes. The composition and duties of the committee shall be determined by the institution."

Now, isn't that just like the NCAA to tell you that you must do something, but not tell you how to do it or what it's supposed to do when you do it? The Student-Athlete Advisory Committees, more commonly referred to as SAAC committees, they are as diverse as the NCAA membership. Some of these are highly organized and very well run. They provide ample opportunity for dialogue between student-athletes at an institution. They also provide dialogue between student-athletes and athletics administrators. This dialogue leads to better understanding between student-athletes and the administrators. Sometimes, it leads to input and often it leads to change at the university and even at the national level through NCAA legislation.

Others are middle of the roaders. They are organized. The students meet and they have a few activities. Some of them are Student-Athlete Advisory Committees in name only and they do nothing. However, having accepted this mandate, how do we make the non-functioning Student-Athlete Advisory Committee good? How do we make the good ones better? How do we make better ones the best that they can be?

This morning, we have three panelists who will provide us with some vital tips in improving the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee at your institution. First, we'll start with Michael Worley. As I said, Michael was a student at Johns Hopkins University. He just graduated, receiving a degree in bio-medical engineering. He will continue his studies this fall at the University of Tennessee. While at Johns Hopkins University, he participated in cross country and track. He served on the National Student-Athlete Advisory Committee this year.

Michael Worley

Before I get started, I just want to thank you for coming. I can tell you, from my experiences as the chair at Johns Hopkins, a lot of what we do wouldn't be possible at all without the help of an administrator. Having this many people interested in getting more done will definitely help. My goal for this presentation is just to give you an idea of some of the things I experienced when I was the chair of a rapidly growing Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. When I first started it was a small group of four or five of us. We would get together every week or two and talk about some of the things we wanted to do. A lot of times, we didn't get around to doing it. A lot of times we talked about making our group better. By the time I got to my junior year, we sat down and got to work drafting a constitution for our group. This is in a handout in the room if you're interested.

It is unnecessarily complicated, I've always felt, but it does provide some important functions. It's a good document to refer to when you get lost. It helps provide some group stability from year to year as people graduate and new people come in. The most important part is the mission statement, which is a very good governing principle to go by when you're looking for what to do next. This is always the first place I look. We have a very long, complicated mission statement, but it sums up to, we're here to look at the student-athlete's best interest. That's my governing principle.

There are three things I focused on to make my Student-Athlete Advisory Committee grow and become more actively involved. I'd like to go through my list to get it going. I increased student-athlete involvement. We discovered, over the course of four years, that it's very easy to get a lot of people to show up for your first meeting. You just put up a flier that says, free pizza. You can get 60 people easy. After that, a lot of them trail off. There are different reasons for that. Some people were looking for free pizza. Time is always a huge issue, because when you play a varsity sport, a member of a club, a demanding Division III academic schedule, time is precious. The biggest thing I did to help solve this time problem is to get more familiar with e-mail. Specifically, I made a list and address book. When you send a message to this address, it sends to everybody on the list. I took advantage of this to keep people up to date with what was going on. Before meetings, I could send out an e-mail with an agenda. If someone couldn't be there, they could still send me feedback without actually physically coming to the meeting. After the meeting, I could send another e-mail to let people know what happened. That way, the busier student-athletes who wanted to be involved but were too busy could still be involved.

Why not just make a list in your address book? The big advantage of this is that it doesn't go away when you go away. With a few management commands, you could take the seniors off and add in next year's freshmen to make the list go on and on. At Johns Hopkins, it required an administrator to sign off to bring it into existence since you have to do this through the university computer system.

We went after the freshmen. Before, it would just be the chair and a few of their friends who all were in the same class. After they graduated, it would be back to square one. We wanted to get people from all classes involved. We started early at orientation. We had ice cream socials and the free pizza meetings trying to get as many freshmen and sophomore as possible. In the long run, it paid off.

Having a mission statement comes in handy. This is also something you can do over e-mail. You can send out your ideas and you can get feedback. We made a student-athlete handbook, something they could use as a reference if they got into trouble or struggling in their classes and needed help. Every campus is a little different, so your rules may be a little different.

We wanted to provide opportunities. This may be even the easiest way to keep people interested. In all honesty, I wouldn't be standing here if my assistant AD hadn't come to me and asked me to apply for this opportunity to be here. There are a lot of opportunities out there, awards, scholarships, chances to serve on conference SAAC or leadership conferences. Students need to be aware of the opportunities out there. We looked at what other schools are doing.

This is the main reason we set out to make a web page this year. We put our local news, as to what we're up to as a SAAC and what our athletics teams are up to. We also put up things about how we organize our meetings to help other schools. This is a helpful resource that anyone can use. The web page is the way to go in the future. It's something that you can use at your school and other schools can use at their campus. You can collaborate with other schools by putting together information for everyone to use.

Thank you for listening.

Art Eason

Thank you Michael. Next, is John Schael, the director of athletics at Washington University. John is a former member of the NCAA Council. He served on numerous NCAA committees. He is president of the Division III Athletics Directors Association and is responsible for the Division III list server. John also asked me to let you know that they won the Division III Basketball Championship.

John Schael

Thank you Art. I don't think I asked you for that, but in any event, thank you. I remember when I was first selected as athletics director at Washington University, how nervous I was on one hand and how excited I was on the other hand. I had an opportunity to provide direction for an intercollegiate athletics program. I came from the University of Chicago. One of the biggest budgets I managed at that time was wrestling for $1,500.

I did have the game plan in terms of what I thought were essential for developing a successful intercollegiate athletics program. At first, it had to do with integrity. Everything we were going to do had to be based on honesty, following the rules, not only of the university but certainly of the national organizations that we were affiliated with at that time. Secondly, I thought it was important to have knowledgeable coaches and administrators working together, supporting one another, to reach the goal. That was essential in terms of having a cohesive staff. Student-athletes with the desire to become the best they can be, not only athletically, but academically, and the development of programs that fit within the culture of the institution. Programs that compliment rather than dominate the life of the student-athletes.

The last ingredient as I started out my career had to do with communication with the administration. They had to be knowledgeable in terms of what we were doing and what some of our goals were and the direction we were going. Within this context, there were some desirable outcomes that were planned. Students had to feel good about themselves, what they're doing and the direction they are moving in.

Secondly, that the university had to recognize and value the contributions that intercollegiate athletics made to the campus community as well as to the total education of the students involved in the programs.

Third, that everyone realizes there is an opportunity for success. You know as well as I do, that we all have limitations in terms of human, financial and physical resources, but we make the best of what we have to accomplish the goals we set for ourselves. Finally, we need an informed administration if we're going to make any changes within the athletics programs at Washington University.

A few years later, it dawned on me that we had a missing ingredient. The weakest link within the department was that we didn't have any communication or input from the student-athletes that were participating in the program. In 1986-87, we created what we call the Captain's Table. It is referred to today as the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. We felt this was important, because we had the other ingredients and we were making a lot of progress, but we needed the input from the student-athletes.

We established this Student-Athlete Advisory Committee with four purposes in mind. One was to encourage positive dialogue between the athletics administration and student-athletes; secondly, to enhance the quality of the student-athlete experience on campus; third, was to promote the development of intercollegiate athletics; and fourth, to foster interaction among team leaders. While we have 18 intercollegiate sports, there wasn't a whole lot of interaction, basically, because of the seasons of play, different sports, academic schedules, plus other activities they are involved in. We thought if we had those four purposes or goals in mind, we could make progress.

Over the years, we've talked about a lot of different issues with the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. We've talked about opportunities that exist within the NCAA, legislation and how it impacts on them in terms of the nontraditional season, for example. We talked about the youth enhancement programs the NCAA has for student-athletes, the postgraduate scholarship program and conference issues with the University Athletic Association. We developed an alcohol and drug policy for our student-athletes. Again, they had input into the development of these initiatives. We also talked about facility enhancements, particularly with the weight room, so they felt they had a vested interest in that. They also felt their ideas were capitalized upon and they felt very good and we were able to offer some of their enhancements.

Obviously, there are many other items we have discussed that are still out there and haven't been accomplished yet. But, they feel better about themselves and their own value in terms of having input for the direction that the athletics department is going in. That's been a lot of fun.

I'm not here to say we have the best Student-Athlete Advisory Committee in the country because that is not true. I'm impressed with what Michael had to say about what they're doing at Johns Hopkins. I'll try to borrow a couple of ideas. We try and that's the important thing.

When we look at trying to improve our Student-Athlete Advisory Committees, some things we try to do in the Washington University setting is to get the coaches involved in the selection of representatives. With our Committee, we ask the coaches if they'll recommend two to three students to serve. That way, we're able to get good representation from all 18 teams. Because of the academic schedules, because of other commitments that students have, we can never get all of the students when we schedule the meetings. Usually, we have about 32 and each team is represented, so we can have good discussions.

It's also important that the communication be given back to the coaches to let them know what issues are being discussed and keep them in the lines of communication.

Second, we established meeting dates for the semester so the students know when the committee is going to get together. We even try to go beyond the semester and go for the whole year. Taking into consideration the academic schedules, we ask all of our student-athlete representatives to give us their academic schedules so we can coordinate a time that best fits the majority of the group. We take into consideration the academic schedules, the sports schedules, the university events and institutional breaks. We try to make sure it is not too time demanding on the students. We keep our meetings to no longer than one and a half hours.

We set parameters in terms of what can be discussed. For us, there is only one issue that is out of bounds and that is, we will not discuss any personnel issues within the department. We can talk about budget, direction and talk to them about how they feel about the experiences they are getting and bring items to their attention in terms of awards, facilities or policies. We never discuss a personnel issue within the department of athletics. We try to express our expectations to the group in terms of what we're looking for from them. That has been very positive and they've been very responsive to that.

Like Johns Hopkins, we have created an e-mail distribution list for the Advisory Committee. We send out media reminders. We ask for agenda items and we also follow up with them at the conclusion of the meetings so everybody is informed even though they weren't able to attend.

Another thing we're going to be moving into this year is to invite the CEO, our chancellor, to kickoff our Student-Athlete Advisory Committee Meeting. We feel it's important that the students have a sense of the value in the role of athletics at Washington University. It's got to come from the top level administration. I know our chancellor will be receptive to that. He has already said he would be glad to do it. I think the kids can really get excited about this. We also talked about having a selective member from the Board of Trustees. We will identify two or three members of the Board of Trustees and ask them to come and discuss some of their experiences at Washington University when they were a student, as well as an athlete. We do have a few of those. We feel it will be a very positive move.

We try to convey that the program is for their benefit. What they have to say during the course of the meeting is very important in terms of shaping the future of Washington University athletics. We can't respond to or put into place everything they would like, but we deal with them sensibly in terms of trying to express that one item is a priority and another one isn't. It may take another generation of students before we can get to that point, but we work hard toward working together on that.

The most important thing anyone can do in terms of improving their Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, at least from my point of view, is while as an athletics director you can delegate the responsibility for setting the meetings and working with the students to develop the agenda, it's critical for the athletics director to take the time and make the meetings as well. You're the leader of the department. The final buck stops on your desk. You have to show your genuine interest and they will look to you for that leadership. They feel comfortable in their group in terms of voicing their opinions, but it's very important that I show support as an athletics director for the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

The Student-Athlete Advisory Committee gets back to one of the things I said earlier. Students have to feel good about themselves, what they're doing and where they're going. The committee certainly helps and the presence of you or other athletics directors at their meetings is certainly beneficial. We have a lot of fun with it, we learn a lot and it's helped shape our future. Thank you.

Art Eason

Thank you John. Next, we have Susan Peal, the NCAA staff liaison for the SAAC Committee there. Susan has been with membership service since February 1999. Her responsibilities include processing the initial eligibility waivers and core course review. She does the Division I Certification and she assists NCAA member institutions with legislation interpretations. Prior to joining the NCAA, she was the associate athletics director for compliance and senior women's administrator at Charleston Southern University.

Susan Peal

Thank you Art. As Art mentioned, I serve at the national level with the Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, so what I want to do is just address what we do at the national level. It's a two-way street between your campus and conference SAACs as it moves to the national level and back to your campuses. I'll give you a brief history of the national SAAC and how we are the Division III SAAC of today. An association-wide SAAC was adopted at the 1989 NCAA convention. The purpose of this association-wide SAAC was to basically look at the legislative proposals, look at NCAA issues and offer student-athlete input. The initial committee was made up of student-athletes across all divisions. With the federation, Student-Athlete Advisory Committees then federated to what we have now as the Division I, II and II SAACs.

Presently, at the Division III level, we have 24 members on our Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. With this, 16 of the members represent the four regions across Division III. Eight of the members are what we call at-large selections. These 24 student-athletes represent the 423 Division III institutions that are out there. The student-athletes, once they are appointed, can serve up to one year beyond their eligibility. The national SAAC meets three times a year. We meet in January in conjunction with the NCAA convention. We meet in July and now we're going to meet in November.

Let me just basically give you a snapshot of what we do at the national level at our meetings. This committee generates a student-athlete voice within the NCAA structure. They solicit the student-athletes' response from campuses and conferences on the proposed legislation. They suggest potential NCAA legislation. They review, react and comment to the governance structure on legislation activities in subjects that are of interest to Division III student-athletes. They actively participate in the administration of the process of the athletics programs on their campus. They bring that to the national level. They promote a positive student-athlete experience.

As mentioned, the National Student-Athlete Advisory Committee meets three times a year. It's not all play. They think they are going to cool location, which they do, and they very much appreciate that. But, the three times a year, we meet for two and a half days. We get them up at 6:00 a.m. and they work until late at night dealing with national issues. They also meet in July and January with the Division II and I SAACs to talk about association-wide issues. With the January and July meetings, the three SAACs all get together and have a community service project in the locale of the community.

The meetings are student driven. We have a chair and vice chair for our committee, very much like what you have on your campuses, what you call an executive committee. With that, we have two student-athletes who serve on the Management Council as representatives. This is unique to Division III. The reason it's unique is because Division III has student-athlete voting rights, which is different from Division I and Division II. If you talk to any of the student-athlete representatives on the national SAAC, their comment is, that's huge. They have that voting rights and they have that say unlike Divisions I and II.

Additionally, the committee members serve on Division III specific committees and association-wide committees. Throughout the year, not only the three committee meetings for SAAC, but they're also involved with other committees and offer input from the student-athlete perspective and bring back to our national staff meetings the issues that are out there.

At each meeting, we review proposed legislation. We offer the student-athlete perspective to the two Management Council representatives who then go to the Management Council with the SAAC viewpoints. We also tackle education initiatives. As Mike spoke about, communication is the key to a successful SAAC, whether it's on your campus or at the conference level. One focal point for the national SAAC we're going to look at this upcoming year is communication. As you heard, we have 24 members serving more than 400 Division III institutions, so communication can be a challenge. At the national level, we have a list serve. Our student-athletes will communicate on a daily basis with each other through the list serve. It is only set up for the national SAAC members. Through our NCAA web site, any of your student-athletes can contact our student-athletes at the national level by going to the NCAA Web site. All of the student-athletes who serve on this committee can send them an e-mail. When an issue arises that way, we will bring it to our national level and we'll see a lot of response with that issue on our list serve where all of the 24 members can talk among themselves.

We've developed a conference partnership program. With our 24 members, they are representing their conference and some independent institutions, but we do not want it stopped there. We want them to link up with a partner conference. They are charged to go back to their conference SAACs, but also to whom we've partnered them up with.

In closing, as far as how do we attain new members? We obtain new members from you, the membership, and we will have, in the year 2002, six new member appointees after the January convention. We will also have three new additional members in September. That's nine new SAAC members at the national level. I encourage you to watch the NCAA News for these vacancies and try to appoint some of your leaders in your SAAC to serve on the national level. Mike talked about how rewarding that could be to serve on the national level.

We expect our national SAAC members to be active in their conference and on their campus SAACs. They should be informed and educated on Division III issues. They need to develop a relationship with their athletics director or whomever the administrator is who oversees the SAAC on their campus and their conference commissioner. They also need to act as a leader liaison among Division III institutions and accept that responsibility of representing all Division III student-athletes.

I also wanted to bring this to your attention. If you did not receive the brochure called Successful Student-Athlete Advisory Committee Programming Campus and Program Models you can e-mail me or call me. My e-mail address is speal@ncaa.org or you can call the national office and I'd be happy to send it to you. Basically, we put together something to help you out. Art mentioned at the beginning that your are charged with having a Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, but then what do you do about it? This packet offers you some good suggestions as far as how to model a successful Student-Athlete Advisory Committee on your campus or on the conference level. We do a couple of samples of models. This is another item on our agenda for July for our Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, because we really want to give you as much help as we possibly can. We're going to pull together from all 24 members what works on their campus as far as a Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. We want to develop a packet, which will offer you some good suggestions. Be looking for that in the future.

Mike and John gave you some excellent ideas of what to take back to your campus or conference.

Art Eason

I'd like to thank our panelists for their excellent job. I'm sure all of your picked up a couple of ideas that will enable you to improve your Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. I know I picked up a few here and I will try to have them implemented when I get back to my school.