July 20, 2016 2:37pm | By Jackie Hobson
The Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee will support all seven of the concepts proposed by the Division I Student-Athlete Experience Committee and intended to enhance students’ ability to balance academics, athletics and collegiate life.
Student-athlete representatives from Division I conferences gathered July 15-17 in Indianapolis to establish priorities and discuss ways to enhance Division I athletics.
Last November, SAAC conducted a survey that garnered feedback from 28,007 student-athletes. In June, the Student-Athlete Experience Committee relied on that feedback (as well as input from a separate Division I-wide survey that included student-athletes, among others) to establish seven concepts. The concepts adhere to several guiding principles: enhance health and well-being; further academic and experiential learning pursuits; promote fairness; and ensure student-athletes take full advantage of opportunities afforded them during their time on campus.
After debate and some minor disagreement, all of the following seven concepts were supported by SAAC:
• Define required athletically related activities. National SAAC members would like full transparency between administrators and student-athletes as this definition is developed.
• Better inform prospective student-athletes about the expectations of time demands. SAAC will take action to provide information about what those expectations are.
• Permit educational exceptions to the five-year eligibility rule. SAAC members support this concept, given that it would provide time for more study abroad and internship opportunities.
• Suggest as a best practice for schools that life skills programs be implemented as a resource for student-athletes. SAAC outlined several areas where life skills programs would be beneficial: social media, financial literacy, resume building, professional development, careers in sports, marketing the student-athlete experience and education regarding what life as a student-athlete entails.
• Suggest as a best practice for schools that administrators and coaches create predictability in sport and athletics department scheduling. The committee noted that schedules should be made known to athletic teams a minimum of a week in advance.
• Undertake a national sport-specific review of playing seasons, practice seasons and all countable athletically related activities.
• Undertake further review of the summer schedule impact on the student experience. SAAC members noted the importance of maintaining time that student-athletes can use at their discretion during the summer vacation period.
SAAC didn’t reach a consensus regarding an eighth concept – proposed by students in the Mid-American Conference – that recommends student-athletes should have one mandatory off-period from athletics during their college careers to study abroad or partake in an internship.
“This came from the year-off concept, recognizing it is just not feasible for student-athletes, but we wanted to make sure they can still get those study abroad and internship opportunities,” explained Kelsi White, a Miami University (Ohio) field hockey student-athlete representing the Mid-American Conference. “In order to foster a culture change, this concept needs to be mandatory.”
SAAC members generally supported this concept, but debated whether it should be mandatory. The committee will report its support to the Division I Council.
“Time demands is obviously a really complex issue and one that is not going to be solved in one meeting, much less a year,” said SAAC co-chair Rachel Scott, who plays softball and is pursuing her master’s degree at the University of Texas at Austin. “The fact that we were able to give positive support for legislation that is going into the cycle right now is a big step forward because that means we are getting wins.”
• SAAC confirmed its priorities for the upcoming year: educating fellow student-athletes about NCAA rules and governance; unifying the student-athlete voice; and focusing on academics, amateurism, recruiting, time demands, mental health and transfer issues.
• SAAC endorsed the NCAA Sexual Violence Prevention Tool Kit, which will be available in the fall and aims to use leadership, collaboration, compliance, education and student-athlete engagement to create a campus environment free from sexual assault.