Chicago, Ill. -
Representatives from the 10 BIG EAST Conference member institutions traveled to Chicago last weekend as part of the Conference’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) summer meeting. Student-athletes met to discuss important NCAA and BIG EAST Conference matters, while also hearing from various speakers, which included former student-athletes. The SAAC representatives also participated in a service activity with the Special Olympics of Chicago.
On Friday night, the student-athletes had a Welcome to Chicago dinner with BIG EAST Commissioner Val Ackerman, who shared her personal and professional experiences with the group from her former student-athlete days to her different executive positions in the work force.
Saturday began with meetings at DePaul’s Lincoln Park campus. Topics discussed included national issues that affect student-athletes today, such as time demands and NCAA governance; BIG EAST-centric issues that included SAAC’s structure, various initiatives, the BIG EAST Health and Safety Working Group, the BIG EAST’s position on the NCAA Autonomy Proposals, BIG EAST Championship feedback and review of the Athletic Director, SWA and Faculty Athletic Representative reports.
"With the recent changes to the NCAA governance structure, student-athletes have more of an opportunity to participate in discussions and to provide feedback on national issues,” remarked BIG EAST Associate Commissioner Jennifer Condaras, who helps lead the SAAC meeting. “Our student-athletes came to the meeting prepared and eager to engage."
Former student-athletes from BIG EAST schools joined the group during a working lunch to share their experiences in a panel discussion. The panel included Carly Edwards, Villanova Class of 2014 and former women’s volleyball player; Ross Ferrarini, Creighton Class of 2012 and former men’s basketball player; and Joel Cornette, Butler Class of 2003 and former men’s basketball player. Edwards currently works in healthcare research and analytics for Korn Ferry, Ferrarini is a coach at Lake Forest College and Cornette is a sports agent at Priority Sports.
“I was happy to give up part of my Saturday to share my experiences with current student-athletes and get re-connected with SAAC and the BIG EAST Conference,” said Edwards. “Having served as the female president of SAAC my senior year at Villanova and being involved with the organization in some capacity throughout my entire college career, I was energized around the idea of meeting current SAAC members who share in a similar passion for the BIG EAST and the unique experience each student-athlete receives when attending one of our prestige institutions.”
The SAAC meetings concluded with a three-hour community service initiative with the Chicago Special Olympics – BIG EAST Field Day, then with a scavenger hunt around Chicago. BIG EAST Field Day took place at Haas Park in Chicago where Special Olympics Chicago brought in 30 athletes from Kosciuszko Park. The student-athletes arranged for five different stations – basketball, running, soccer, bean bag toss and softball/baseball skills – participate with the Special Olympics athletes.
In addition to Commissioner Ackerman, the 18 student-athletes, and Condaras, Director of Championships Tania Kennedy and Xavier Faculty Athletics Representative Rose Ann Fleming also helped organize this three-day meeting.
The BIG EAST SAAC representatives meet in person annually and participate in conference calls and other methods of communication throughout the academic year. The SAAC directive is to enhance the total student-athlete experience by promoting opportunity, protecting the well-being of student-athletes and promoting a positive student-athlete image. The SAAC focuses on increased communication and networking to better represent the views of all student-athletes.
Representatives in attendance
Butler: Briana Lilly, Volleyball
Creighton: Megan Ballenger, Volleyball; Ty Medd, Men’s Cross Country
DePaul: Yuliya Shupenia, Women’s Tennis; Simon Megally, Men’s Soccer
Georgetown: Aliyah Graves-Brown, Field Hockey; Akoy Agau, Men’s Basketball
Marquette: Erin Holland, Women’s Soccer;* Cameron Marotta, Men’s Basketball
Providence: Taylor Huntly, Softball; Nick Sailor, Men’s Soccer
St. John’s: Alyssa Rusch, Softball; Hope Demel, Volleyball
Seton Hall: Sarah Kenneweg, Volleyball; Jeff Larson, Men’s Cross Country
Villanova: Callie Duliba, Women’s Soccer
Xavier: Mackenzi Humm, Volleyball; Grant Parrelli, Men’s Cross Country
*National SAAC Representative for the BIG EAST