By: Tristany Leikem, Atlantic 10 Conference  National SAAC Representative 

Last week, Indianapolis was the center of attention for football fans across the nation. The infamous Super Bowl took place at the home of the Colts, where the top two football teams of the year competed at Lucas Oil stadium. Just a few weeks earlier, Indianapolis was home to the less infamous NCAA Convention. Although the NCAA receives a lot of attention during the year, a large portion of that attention is the result of NCAA violations and other negative topics. To me, the lack of positive coverage is saddening. The public must know that the NCAA does not begin and end with its headquarters in Indianapolis. The substance of the NCAA is its membership, made up of over 1,200 academic institutions across the nation. Although a few collegiate sports dominate sports media, more than 400,000 student-athletes compete in NCAA competitions at all levels and in all arenas.

Every student-athlete has a unique experience throughout their intercollegiate athletic careers. My athletic adventures led me to a position on the Division I National Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). In January, I was fortunate to attend the 2012 NCAA Convention  as a student-athlete representative and delegate. Overall, the experience was absolutely unbelievable. In my first year as a member of the Division I SAAC, my view of my role as a student-athlete and my understanding of the NCAA have dramatically changed.

My freshmen year, I joined a group on campus called the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, also known as “the SAAC.” To me, SAAC was a group of student-athletes on campus that organized food drives, raised money for charity and met once every other week. To me, being a student-athlete meant constant competition against athletes from other conferences and institutions. During my junior year I was asked to participate in monthly conference calls for the Atlantic 10 SAAC as an alternate for our institutional representative. Little did I know that these calls would lead me to my position on the Division I NationalSAAC. I realize now that one of the best decisions I ever made in college was to join SAAC and stick with it. 

Now, with three DI SAAC meetings under my belt (including the NCAA Convention), I have met the most amazing student-athletes and NCAA staff members, and I have a renewed appreciation for my position as an NCAA student-athlete. There are many changes occurring in the NCAA, and it would behoove all student-athletes to sit up and pay attention because #OURvoice should be heard throughout college athletics. A collaborative effort should be made at all levels to engage student-athletes, administrators, and the NCAA membership and staff in a reciprocal and productive conversation about all aspects of college athletics. Stand up and be heard, and maybe one day the NCAA Convention and the student-athletes who make up the NCAA will be as talked about as the NFL Super Bowl.


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