Driving up Interstate 35 through Austin and back to school in Waco, Texas, I could not remember a time in my life when I felt so empowered. I experienced my first NCAA Convention this year in San Antonio, and I did not know what I was getting myself into at the beginning of the week. After five busy days of meetings, luncheons and banquets our committee’s task to make the student-athlete’s voice heard had never been more imminent.

Just a few short months ago, we gathered in Indianapolis to vote on legislative proposals that could directly impact student-athletes. Behind closed doors, we listened to every conferences opinion ensuring that the student-athlete voice was taken into account on each proposal. Although it can be quite a laborious endeavor to pick apart the rhetoric of these potential rules, we know our conferences rely on us to get to the heart of the matter for the well-being of student-athletes. With our work cut out for us, we hastily planned for the 105th annual NCAA Convention, which would prove to be much more than we could’ve expected.

The NCAA Convention is our committee’s time to perform on the big stage, in what could be considered the “championship” part of Division I SAAC’s season.  The first days we finalized our positions on the proposals we had gathered feedback on since early October. We prepared to lead discussions with the groups at the top of the NCAA governance structure. The face-to-face interactions with faculty athletic representatives, athletic directors, NCAA staff, and presidents is extremely important, especially when it might be our only shot the entire year at voicing the opinions of the thousands of student-athletes to those who hold the vote.

Highlights of our meetings included dinner with the members of the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee, lunch with the Legislative and Leadership Councils, breakfast with the Board of Directors, and a Q&A session with President Mark Emmert. Our discussions revolved around hot topics including recruiting, amateurism and agents, commercialism and the student-athlete voice.  The resounding theme throughout our discussions and interactions with the administrators was one of increased appreciation for and eagerness to hear what we had to say.

From President Emmert’s State of the Association speech we heard, “The business that we’re in is supporting students and helping them be successful in all their endeavors.” President Emmert emphasized the important role that student-athletes can play in influencing those individuals who propose and vote on the legislation. This statement came to life when the Executive Board, for the first time, proposed the presence of several student-athletes at their future meetings to provide the student-athlete voice.

In our closing meeting there was a sense of looming opportunity, yet responsibility, for the upcoming months on our campuses and in our conferences. It has been said, “To whom much is given, much is required.” With the opportunities our committee has been afforded, our platform is wider and stronger than ever. We understand that now is our time to reach a broader base of student-athletes so that one-year from now we can say in full confidence that we are the representatives and voice of over 140,000 Division I student-athletes. 

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