As a new member of the Division I National Student Athlete Advisory Committee, I was extremely nervous about my first meeting. The fact that the meeting was in conjunction with the NCAA Convention didn’t help calm any of those butterflies either. First arriving in Atlanta from Colorado, I expected some nice southern weather, but apparently that doesn’t exist. There wasn’t much of a change from the frigid Colorado air to the frigid Georgia air. My flight got in really early that day, so all I could do was sit around and wait for people to show up. At first, I was exhausted and seriously lacking enthusiasm, however, as student-athletes from across the country began to gather, my energy grew. I knew I was going to have an amazing experience.

One would think that 14 hours of daily meetings would put a damper on a convention, but in my opinion that was the best part. I learned more in our daily meetings than I have learned in a long time and that is all due to the amazing members of SAAC. Each and every member of SAAC brings something different to the committee and everything they bring is valuable. I could write an entire blog entry on the members of SAAC alone, as well as the liaisons. A couple of things that I want to cover are the Division I Business Session as well as the Honors Celebration/Dinner.

Now for those of you who have never been to a NCAA Convention, believe me when I say it is a tad intimidating. When you walk in there are chairs for all of the delegates as well as microphones throughout for people to give speeches if they so choose. Being in the same room with university presidents, NCAA staff members and athletic administration from all over the country is a humbling and, quite frankly, a nerve-wrecking experience. But the fact is that every single one of them is there for the same purpose, to enhance the experiences of student-athletes, creates an electrifying atmosphere.

With two high profile and semi-controversial pieces of legislation up for override during the convention, my first business session and the preparation for it was interesting to say the least. Proposal 2008-46, in the simplest of terms, added another week to the baseball season, going from 13 weeks to 14 weeks. As student-athletes we felt that it was important that the season did extend, allowing for more rest for the baseball student-athletes, as well as, more scheduling flexibility to ensure less missed class time. Because this was so important to us, our chair, Matt Baysinger, gave an amazing speech to the entire business session. Proposal 2008-59 was the more controversial of the two; the override would take sand volleyball off of the Division I Emerging Sports List. When there was a motion to discuss this proposal, I could feel the tension in the room rising. Delegate after delegate walked up to a microphone to explain why people should support or oppose the override and our very own Danielle Neault gave a rousing speech about why people should oppose the override and allow sand volleyball to stay on the ESL. It was amazing to see the passion and viewpoints that all of the delegates brought to their speeches. It reminded me of how lucky I am to be a DI student-athlete because there are so many people working hard to make sure that I succeed in all ways possible.
On the final night of the convention there was the Honors Celebration and that was a real treat. The Honors Celebration is always on the last night of the convention and honors amazing people that have truly amazing stories. The Top VIII is a group of student athletes who showed an interest in not only being the best at their sport but also to academics and community service. Some of the Top VIII included Tim Tebow of the University of Florida, Courtney Kupets of the University of Georgia and Jeff Lerg of Michigan State.

The Silver Honorees were all former student-athletes on their 25th Anniversary of graduation. Doug Flutie, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Maureen O-Toole Purcell were just a few of the Silver Honorees. All of them had done great things throughout their lives, but I think the most important thing was that they all stood for what being a student-athlete can do for you in the long run. The NCAA also awarded the two awards of Valor; one to Richard Phillips and the other to Roxana Saberi. Phillips was the captain of the merchant ship that got attacked by Somalian pirates last year. But the most amazing part of this story was that he allowed himself to be kidnapped in order to protect the lives of the men and women on his ship. Saberi, a journalist, was arrested and had an unannounced trial where she was sentenced to eight years in an Iranian jail. She was not allowed visitors for some time and was put through all types of mental torture while in captivity. Exactly 100 days after her arrest, Saberi was released and has since been seen as a hero all over the country. There were two Inspiration awards given out: one to the Bluffton baseball team and the other to Lieutenant Colonel Gregory Gadson. The Bluffton baseball team lost five members in 2007 in a bus crash on the way to their season opener in Florida. A month after the accident, the remaining team members and the coaches decided that it was important to continue playing for the players that couldn’t be there. Gadson, a former football student-athlete from West Point, lost both of his legs to an improvised explosive device in Iraq. Gadson didn’t allow this incident to end his life and is a testament to us all that obstacles only stay in our way if we allow them to.

Something that was true about all of the honorees was that even though they had all done amazing things and had amazing stories; they were some of the most humble people I have ever met.

I have been lucky in my life to meet many different people but the people that I meet during the week of January 11-16 were and will remain unforgettable and I can’t wait until the next meeting.

Eugene Daniels
Colorado State University
Mountain West Conference
Division I National SAAC Member
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