By Tim Miller
The Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) is comprised of two players from each varsity sport at Cedarville University. The committee’s 26 members communicate, with one voice, to the university, as well as to the NCAA and community members.
Since the organization’s inception, it’s grown to take on new challenges and initiatives in order to better the lives of student-athletes themselves, as well as make an impact in the lives of those who are less fortunate.
Senior tennis player Halie Hardwick previously served as the SAAC’s secretary, and now serves as president of the org. Hardwick said the ultimate goal is to promote a greater bond between student athletes and the community at large.
“We try to improve the student-athlete experience at Cedarville University by giving athletes a voice in legislation and creating opportunities to serve through MakeA-Wish and ACTs (Athletes Collecting Toiletries in Service),” Hardwick said. “We also celebrate the athletes and all they’ve accomplished throughout the year with the Golden Jacket Awards.”
Most recently, the SAAC has worked with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and it created the ACTs (Athletes Collecting Toiletries in Service) initiative. Both of these projects allows Yellow Jacket athletes to make an impact in the community, on top of representing the gospel in games and matches.
Through partnership with the G-MAC, Hardwick said around $20,000 is raised each year for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Hardwick mentioned multiple ways in which the student athletes help raise money for Make-A-Wish, and one method is through a coin drive. Twice a year, student-athletes trek door-to-door at each dormitory on campus asking for donations.
The ACTs initiative is a simple one that allows the student-athletes to tangibly help others in need. When teams stay in hotels during road trips, the players and coaches will collect travel sized soaps during their stay and donate them to a homeless shelter in Cincinnati.
“I think it’s cool that we as athletes have the opportunity to pay it forward,” Hardwick said. “We try to come up with ideas that bridge the gap between athletics and campus to build community among all students by selecting events that everyone enjoys while also giving to a great cause.”
Multiple members of university administration help guide the SAAC in these generous efforts, Athletic Director Dr. Alan Geist said.
“I have been the adviser since the group started,” Geist said. “Stephanie Zonars, our current assistant athletic director for administration, became a coadviser in 2016. With her attention to detail and leadership, the SAAC officers and membership have taken the group to a whole new level.”
The SAAC has also helped manage a pie-in-the-face throw and minute-to-win-it games during halftime of basketball games, but Hardwick says they plan to nix the piein-the-face with a hot chocolate and donut fundraiser.
On campus, the SAAC puts together the Golden Jackets, which is an awards show similar to ESPN’s Espy’s. This is the largest undertaking for the committee, according to senior women’s basketball player and SAAC vice president Cameron Peek. Committees like Script, Hospitality, Productions and Operations and Marketing help produce what is one of the most special nights of the year for Yellow Jacket student athletes.
The marketing team runs an Instagram account (@cujacketssaac) in order to promote the SAAC and the Golden Jackets.
“Our marketing committee works together to create save-the-dates, invitations, gather content for our SAAC Instagram and ultimately promote our biggest event of the year, the Golden Jacket Awards,” Peek said. “It’s a fun role getting to collaborate with other student-athletes throughout the year.”
While the SAAC plays a big role in helping others in the community, the committee’s communication with administration is also a key tenet. The SAAC’s mission statement reveals important functions of the organization. They aim to give student-athletes a voice within the university and discuss and give feedback on proposed NCAA legislation, among other things.
Each fall, a meeting is conducted to vote on NCAA legislation, Peek said, and about 10-15 pieces of legislation are typically voted on. While the votes aren’t directly counted for NCAA changes, the student-athlete’s voice gives Cedarville administration an idea of what positions and values they hold.
“In the past, our men and women’s basketball teams voted on increasing offseason on-court hours from two to four,” Peek said. “We actually voted against it, but the committee at the national level voted in favor of it. This went into effect this fall, and our coaches were allowed to have up to four hours on the court with us.”
While voting on legislation is empowering and exciting, said Peek, both Hardwick, Peek, and likely most other members of the SAAC, know their experience goes far deeper than just speaking to the NCAA on issues.
“The best part of my job is getting to know our athletic staff and fellow student athletes,” Hardwick said. “One of my favorite things to do is to go support them at their games and be apart of what is going on in their lives.”
Tim Miller is a senior Marketing major, editor-in-chief and sports editor for Cedars. He enjoys having a baby face, knowing too much about health insurance, and striving to perfect the optimal combination of Dwight Schrute and Ron Swanson.