"Our purpose is to be the voice of student-athletes," says SAAC representative Nadia Jefferies, a senior softball player at North Carolina Central. "We make sure athletes' thoughts and interests are heard."
The SAAC is organized on campus, conference and division levels. Each MEAC school has two representatives per sport on its campuses that make up the SAAC and one representative per school is also a member of MEAC/SAAC. The MEAC also has one representative to the Division I SAAC, which consists of one representative from each of the 31 Division I conferences.
Campus SAACs meet at least once a month; the MEAC/SAAC meets monthly via conference call to discuss issues and plan initiatives and it holds an annual meeting in Norfolk, Va.
SAAC's role as a watchdog is an important one. If a student-athlete is concerned about being mistreated by a coach, SAAC provides a sounding board; if an athlete believes a scholarship was wrongfully taken away, SAAC is there, and in recent years SAAC has succeeded in having policies that protect its constituents implemented conference-wide.
"We're making a difference,'' says Jefferies.
When some of Hampton's teams had issues concerning facilities maintenance, the SAAC held a Town Hall meeting with SAAC representatives and the athletic administration to resolve them.
"It was very helpful having everybody in one room," says Hampton men's basketball player and SAAC representative Bakari Taylor. "Teams know where they stand and how issues are being resolved rather than just waiting for a response. Concerns are answered in a timely fashion."
The SAAC also plays a vital role in ensuring that student-athletes have a total college experience, that they are involved in campus life the same as non-athletic students.
Last school year, North Carolina Central's SAAC started a student-athlete lock-in. Student-athletes from the school's 14 sports got together for pizza, played games and romped on inflatables. This school year it is sponsoring a Winter Formal for athletes.
For the last three years, the North Carolina A&T SAAC has sponsored the Aggie Athletics Fall Ball, where student-athletes can bring non-athletes as dates. In the past, it was a formal affair, but last fall it organizers added a twist. The theme was the 1980's vs. the 1990's.
"We want to make sure we're having fun as a community of athletes," Jefferies says, "That it's not just practice, eat, sleep and go home. We're not just watchdogs. We're involved in having a good time together and getting to know each other."
But the SAAC goes beyond fun and games. Community service is also one of its key elements, and each institution's SAAC are involved in a variety of projects.
Hampton's SAAC participates in the "Jump Rope for Heart Campaign each year and helps a local church with its Food Bank.
North Carolina Central is planning an Eagle Walk for Cancer with the inaugural event projected for the 2012-13 school year.
Last fall, North Carolina A&T student-athletes established a Pink Zone for home volleyball matches to promote Breast Cancer Awareness, complete with prize giveaways.
The SAAC also planned a Valentine's program during which it will distribute information about safety on campus. It also held a safety seminar during Homecoming, and it participated in a Drug Awareness Program sponsored by the City of Greensboro, N.C.
North Carolina A&T senior baseball player and SAAC representative Carvell Copeland, who is also the MEAC's representative to the Division I SAAC, says a side benefit of the SAAC is it allows them to be seen in a different light and enhances their image.
We don't get the dumb jock stereotype,'' he says. "People see us on campus wearing athletic apparel and they recognize us. That's a good portrayal when we have on A&T apparel.''