Student-athlete advisory committee boosting support

by Matt Couture / Beacon Staff • February 18, 2016

Under new leadership, the Student-Athlete Advisory Council has increased their visibility, hosting multiple events to boost the department’s profile in the past two weeks.

On Feb. 6, the SAAC sponsored the Lions’ “Fan Appreciation Day,” which invited students to share pizza and their Saturday afternoon with the women’s and men’s basketball teams for conference matchups against Mount Holyoke College and Clark University, respectively. 

Council member and women’s lacrosse goalkeeper Victoria Kanaris said events like that one, and the current status of the SAAC, are a product of tireless effort from her peers. 

“It didn’t start out as much,” Kanaris, a senior visual and media arts major, said. “My freshman year, people would be like ‘Oh, there’s free food, come,’ and after that it jump-started and we’ve been working on a lot of really good things.”

Under the direction of head women’s lacrosse coach Kat Egizi, the SAAC now helps to shape policies and hopes to widen the Lions’ fan base. The group meets once a month, and normally a member of each Emerson team is present. Egizi said she’s pleased that a range of students have become involved.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for leaders within the student-athlete community to take ownership of the athletics department as a whole within this campus,” Egizi said. “That’s speaking on behalf of student-athletes, speaking on behalf of administrators to student-athletes, and having a say in what role athletics plays on campus.” 

Egizi is in her first year in command of the SAAC, and works with first-year head baseball coach Nick Vennochi and athletics’ director of media relations and men’s lacrosse assistant coach Matt Ulrich. 

Athletic director Patricia Nicol, who SAAC typically consults throughout their planning process for events, said it’s encouraging that athletes are developing ideas about not only future promotions, but also the future of sports at the college.

“To me, it’s much more impactful for coaches and students to be involved and actually initiate and conduct these activities, because it really is a shared collaboration,” Nicol said. “It’s understanding that we all have to be in this together in order to move the whole thing forward.”

Kanaris said the presence of the SAAC allows for easier communication up the chain of athletics’ leadership.

“Being able to have our voices heard by administration and different departments is really nice,” Kanaris said. “Now we can directly [say], ‘This is what we’ve been talking about, we’ve worked it out, here is our proposal.’ We’re able to sit down [and] have an intellectual conversation about it.” 

Egizi said all schools under the NCAA umbrella typically feature similar councils, and some SAAC members attend a meeting with athletes from other New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference schools to share their opinion on freshly proposed NCAA rule changes. 

Following the suggestion of women’s volleyball right side hitter Elizabeth Reid, Egizi said members are currently working on relationship violence education, inspired by the national One Love Foundation. The foundation was established after the murder of a women’s lacrosse player from the University of Virginia in 2010.

“[Reid] really wanted to bring that to Emerson athletics, and educate everyone in our world,” Egizi said. “The hope is that ideally we can then turn to the rest of the Emerson community and educate them.” 

Athletes involved in the SAAC recently completed an Emerson STANDS workshop with the college’s Violence Prevention and Response office. On Wednesday, they sponsored “Faculty Appreciation Night” during the men’s basketball matchup against Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a spin-off of “Fan Appreciation Day” earlier in the month. Egizi hinted that a field day may be in the works for the future.

Nicol said the group will continue to develop ideas, events, and initiatives. She expects her role will be to encourage the flow of ideas from students rather than standing in the way of progress.

“As far as what I’m looking for, or would like to see from the SAAC, is what they are looking for and what they want,” Nicol said. “If those philosophies and those ideas are aligned with the philosophy of the department and college, then I’m going to support it.”