On March 24th, the NCAA Division I Leadership Council approved the creation of the Division I National Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) Award of Excellence. This award is intended to showcase campus SAACs that have made great contributions to their respective communities.

The mission of the NCAA Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee is to enhance the total student-athlete experience by promoting opportunity, protecting student-athlete well being, and fostering a positive student-athlete image. Our hope was that this award would not only showcase the many positive accomplishments of SAACs all over the country, but also that it will spread awareness of the National SAAC and our position in the NCAA governance structure. The selection for the award was based on the following criteria:
a. Progress and growth of campus SAAC;
b. Community Service/Outreach;
c. Sportsmanship Initiatives;
d. Teamwork;
e. Originality; and
f. Leadership.
Selection could be based on any single category, or a combination of multiple categories. The selection committee is comprised entirely of NCAA Division I National SAAC members. When we opened the door for applications on the 20th of April, we were immediately overwhelmed with a tremendous response by SAACs all over the country. We knew that choosing a winner would be difficult, but we never could have imagined how complicated – and inspiring - the process would truly be. There are amazing things happening every day on all of our campuses, and it is our hope that every SAAC gets the recognition they deserve for their commitment to their institutions and communities.
In reading through the submissions, however, there were two schools that stood out among the rest. It is the honor and privilege of the NCAA Division I National Student-Athlete Advisory Committee to recognize the outstanding achievements of the SAACs at both North Dakota State University, and the University of Oregon.
North Dakota State University
The three defining pillars of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee at North Dakota State are Teamwork, Leadership, and Community Service/Outreach. When Fargo-Moorhead’s Red River started flooding in late March, the NDSU SAAC quickly stepped in to mobilize their teams in an effort to fight the flood threatening their community.

Over the five-day span, the student-athletes, cheer team, and student-athlete trainers spent over 7,200 hours sandbagging in and around the Fargo-Moorhead area – many working over 20 hours each. This number does not take into account the additional sandbagging done in anticipation of the second crest, or the sandbag removal efforts that are still taking place. The football student-athletes even traveled to Valley City State University to assist in their flood fight as well.
“This is a great way for us to give back to the community. The people of this area have done so much for us through the years,” said Lucas Moormann, a senior on the Men’s Basketball team. “As we saw down at the NCAA tournament, we have a ton of fans. This is one way to give back to them and help the community.”

The leadership shown by the North Dakota State University SAAC is a true testament to the very idea of community service. Both collectively and individually, all of the student-athletes – whether they were in state or out of state - articulated the need to give back to their “community.” The physical presence and emotional stability of NDSU team members was immeasurable as young and old were energized by the enthusiasm and encouragement provided by these young men and women to endure the ravages of the flood.

The accomplishment of the SAAC members, student-athletes, cheer team members and student-athletic trainers has not gone unnoticed, as several emails and notes of personal thanks were sent by homeowners who felt the efforts of these teams literally saved their homes. It is with a great amount of respect and humility that we, the NCAA Division I National SAAC, are proud to present the student-athletes of North Dakota State University with the National SAAC Award of Excellence. Your actions and demonstrated dedication to your community is simply outstanding. Congratulations.

The University of Oregon

On September 28, 2008 the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee at the University of Oregon launched a non-profit community organization program called Oregon Heroes. The goal of O Heroes was to create a single identity for all community service initiatives and to seek involvement from all student-athletes, staff, and faculty. O Heroes is focused in three areas which student-athletes feel they are able to excel in: health, education and service.

The Student-Athlete Advisory Committee decided to launch O Heroes as a department recognized non-profit organization. This allows O Heroes to collect donations on campus grounds including athletic facilities. O Heroes is also able to donate money raised to service projects such as the Duckling, which provides financial support to a local child battling an illness.

“The SAAC has a long history of giving back in our community. But now we are able to extend our reach even further,” explained Matt Jacobson, a golf student-athlete at Oregon. “This program is unique in that it is run primarily by student-athletes. Now, we can incorporate all the service that student-athletes do under one initiative.”

SAAC executive members serve as the Board of Directors for O Heroes. At meetings, the student-athletes decide what service projects align with the goals of O Heroes and then plan and coordinate those projects, with support and guidance given by the Student-Athlete Development Office within the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics.

One of the highlights from the O Heroes initiative is called “Quackin’ Action”, a fun and educational event that provides over 300 local children the opportunity to meet and greet student-athletes as well as participate in a series of stations focused on health, education, nutrition, and fitness. The event is entirely organized and coordinated by SAAC.

Through O Heroes, Oregon’s student-athlete advisory committee has also taken initiative and formulated new relationships with campus groups including Greek Life. One example of this involves partnering with Delta Tau Delta, to participate in the Bleed Purple Volleyball Tournament, a philanthropic event to raise money for college students battling cancer.

Since the launching of O Heroes, community service has skyrocketed throughout the athletic department. The University of Oregon SAAC has demonstrated outstanding leadership and commitment to the O Heroes program and continues to make huge strides to create, implement, and share new ideas.

Because of their originality and ingenuity, the SAAC at the University of Oregon has made a remarkable difference in their community, and student-athletes are being recognized as something more than just stars on the playing field – they have become heroes. The NCAA Division I National SAAC is truly inspired by the effort and leadership of student-athletes at the University of Oregon, and your actions epitomize the positive values SAAC’s everywhere. Congratulations on all of your accomplishments.

The NCAA Division I National SAAC is honored to present both the University of Oregon and North Dakota State University with the Spring 2009 National SAAC Award of Excellence. We are encouraged and inspired by your efforts, and your example now sets the standard for excellence in promoting growth, community Service, outreach, sportsmanship, teamwork, originality, and leadership. Congratulations again on your outstanding achievement.

One Division, One Voice; The NCAA Division I National SAAC.
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