CORTLAND, N.Y. - Last week, SUNYAC SAAC Cabinet members were given the opportunity to attend the 2018 NCAA Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana to represent the conference. A first time experience for all members, the convention provided the student-athlete leaders with networking opportunities, exposure to athletic administrative functionality, leadership building workshops, and the opportunity to interact with SAAC cabinet members both from different conferences throughout the United States, as well as National SAAC members. "The experience gained at the 2018 NCAA Convention was absolutely amazing," said SUNYAC SAAC President Ben Chatley (Fredonia). "As student-athlete leaders, it is our duty to properly better ourselves in order to more adequately represent the student-athlete population not only at each of our member institutions, but at the conference level as a whole."
Throughout the week, SAAC cabinet members were given a plethora of opportunities to meet both student-athletes and administrators from all three divisions. On Thursday, the cabinet had lunch with members of the Division III National SAAC along with all other Division III student athletes that attended the convention. They were given time to interact with and connect to those who are also striving to manage academics and athletics throughout the country. In addition, they were able to meet a group of honorees and award winners at the 2018 NCAA Honors Ceremony. Among the award winners were former NFL quarterback Jim Kelly, former NFL kicker Jason Hanson, and Special Agent Crystal Griner. The ceremony honored those with outstanding athletic and academic performances, as well as a select few who have given back to the community in one form or another. "The many people met throughout the week, along with the many award winners and their amazing stories, left me inspired to continue to strive to do better in everything I do" said Vice President Matthew Norris (Cortland). Vice President of Legislation Alaina Lynch (Cortland) commented on her experience "I never would have expected to meet an astronaut, two NFL players, sports broadcasters, and 20+ national champions in the three short days I attended. The aura of excellence was evident. Being in the presence of such great inspiration motivated me to take hold of the rest of my own NCAA career."
Among the events held at the convention was the NCAA Division III Special Olympics Unified Sports Activity, where SUNYAC SAAC members were given the opportunity to work and interact with Special Olympic athletes. "By far my favorite event at the convention was partnering with Special Olympics athletes and playing kickball and cornhole" said Cabinet Alternate Tara Hansen (Oswego). "I became especially close with two Special Olympic athletes who were on my kickball team, who were the most outgoing and charismatic individuals I have ever met."
SUNYAC SAAC Cabinet participating in the NCAA Division III Special Olympics Unified Sports Activity.
Throughout several SAAC meetings, the cabinet was able to stimulate discussion and provide input regarding certain aspects of the SUNYAC student-athlete experience. Cabinet members also discussed future plans and events, the one at the top of their list being this year's Around the World for Yeardly event. This year, the SUNYAC will be teaming up with several other SUNY member institutions throughout the state to seek to reach their goal of 50 million yards, the rough equivalent of walking around the world once. This high, yet attainable goal set by SUNYAC SAAC members is likely to set the standard for Yards for Yeardly events throughout the nation. In addition, cabinet members also set course a plan to incorporate the topics of mental health and suicide awareness into upcoming SUNYAC SAAC meetings.
Another opportunity provided to cabinet members at the convention included the NCAA Association Luncheon, which honored Good Morning America co-host Robin Roberts with the Gerald R. Ford Award for her outstanding basketball career, as well as a remarkable career following her time at Southeastern Louisiana University. Cabinet members were also able to sit in on the SUNYAC Governing Body meeting, which was held Friday afternoon. Aside from this meeting, cabinet members were also able to attend the NCAA Division III business session on the final day of the convention, which allowed administrators from Division III institutions and conferences throughout the nation to discuss and vote on legislation for the upcoming year. Vice President of Community Engagement Taylor Mormile (New Paltz) said "I enjoyed getting an inside look at how our conference and division handles business as well as participating in discussions with them."
SUNYAC SAAC Cabinet members pictured with NCAA President Mark Emmert following the NCAA Association Luncheon.
Following the convention, cabinet members had nothing but positive remarks regarding their experiences. SUNYAC SAAC Cabinet Alternate Malyssa Chanthasoto (Buffalo State) said "it truly was an amazing experience and I cannot thank the SUNYAC enough for letting me be a part of it. Being able to represent the thousands of student-athletes from Buffalo State and the entire SUNYAC conference in Indianapolis is something I will never forget." President Ben Chatley included in his statement "these types of opportunities come once, maybe twice in the career of the student-athlete and we as the SUNYAC SAAC Cabinet are truly blessed to be given these privileges."