UNA athletes work to benefit community

The Student-Athlete Advisory Committee is a program meant to strengthen communication between the NCAA, university athletic programs, and student-athletes.

The SAAC initiative was adopted in 1989 with the purpose of providing student-athletes with the ability to offer input on activities or legislation that affects student-athlete welfare, according to NCAA’s website.

UNA’s SAAC has 31 members with at least two representatives from every sport. The number of representatives is proportionate to team size. Members are nominated by the coaches of each squad. SAAC officers are voted on by the members.

SAAC is a medium for student-athletes to voice their opinions but also serves a broader purpose.

“The purpose of SAAC is to enhance the total student-athlete experience by developing student-athlete leadership, skills, promoting opportunities, protecting student-athlete welfare, and by fostering a positive student-athlete image on the UNA campus,” said junior Jennifer Towne.

Towne plays basketball for the Lions but also serves as SAAC President.

“My roles for SAAC are meeting orchestrating, coercing volunteers, connecting the student-athlete’s voice with administrative power, availability, running meetings and staying up to date with the GSC SAAC across our conference,” she said. “I have always enjoyed being part of the group, but I felt as president I could take this group to another level of involvement.”

While the SAAC is a committee dedicated to student-athlete benefits, it is also a way for athletes to get involved in the community, an aspect quarterback Luke Wingo said is just as important.

“One example [of SAAC involvement] is in the Make-A-Wish Foundation. It takes $10,000 to make this happen and our goal is to raise that money on our own,” Wingo said. “It’s a special thing to be involved with and I am honored to be a part of it.”

Other projects and activities SAAC participates in are volunteering at athletic events on campus, sponsoring a child or children during Christmas time and having an annual “fun night” in Flowers Hall where kids can spend time playing with the student-athletes.

Lions Supporting Lions is an annual event where all UNA student-athletes get together at Flowers Hall to socialize, hang out, and enjoy hotdogs and hamburgers grilled by sponsors.

“Athletes outside of SAAC enjoy the benefits they receive due to our hard work,” said Towne. “This year we were able to stress the importance of our group to others, and it actually excited other athletes and made them want to be a part.”