LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. – The Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) was represented by 16 student-athletes last week at the 2018 NCAA Convention in Indianapolis, Ind. Made possible through the NCAA Division III Strategic Initiative Grant, the student-athletes participated in a wide range of activities – from education sessions to business sessions to the NCAA Honors Celebration. Social Media Recap | Video Recap
“This is the third time we’ve used the NCAA Division III Strategic Initiative Grant to fund the attendance of numerous student-athletes to the NCAA Convention, and it is my opinion it is the most productive use of the grant we have found," said SCAC Commissioner Dwayne Hanberry. "When you can provide a group of current student-athletes an opportunity to network with college administrators from around the country in addition to a peek behind the curtain regarding how NCAA legislation is crafted – that is an endeavor that has life-changing potential for some of these kids."
Student-athletes from all eight SCAC member institutions attended, including: Karolina Cruz of Austin College; Gabe Rodriguez of Centenary College; Daniel Krueger, Michael Gorman and Liza Huschle of Colorado College; Kevin McGuirk and Melanie Savala of the University of Dallas; Gregg Gutierrez, Trevor Wren and Lindsey Fitz of Schreiner University; Angelica Grayson of Southwestern University; Chris Frank and Selena Wicklund of Texas Lutheran University; and Davis King, Maggie Linker and Ivy Claflin of Trinity University.
After arriving in Indianapolis Wednesday afternoon, the group started its week off with in style by attending the Honors Celebration, which is always one of, if not the, highlight of every NCAA Convention. At this event, the Association annually honors those who make lasting contributions to intercollegiate athletes. Current and former student-athletes are recognized for their work on the field and in the classroom, their contributions to society and their ability to inspire those around them.
The NCAA’s Honors Celebration covers the Theodore Roosevelt Award; Today’s Top Ten Awards, the Silver Anniversary Awards, the Award of Valor, and the Inspiration Award.
"The thing that has stuck with me and I think I’ve taken to heart the most is from the video of David Morrow during the Honors Celebration," said Kevin McGuirk, a member of the University of Dallas track and field team. "They were showing his yearbook and stuff like that, and there was one quote on his yearbook that really stuck out to me and it was ‘pressure makes diamonds’ and I thought that was really, really cool.”
Thursday's calendar represented a whirlwind of activity as the SCAC contingent attended educational sessions on Thursday morning, followed by a luncheon sponsored by the Division III National Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
Once lunch was complete, the group attended a Special Olympics Unified Sports Experience followed by additional educational sessions.
“It was really interesting to work with Special Olympics," said Ivy Claflin, a member of the Trinity University swim team. "I’d like to have a job as a pediatric therapist working with kids with disabilities, so I got the opportunity to talk to a lady who works for the Special Olympics to set me up with a potential internship connection, so that was amazing.”
The group then headed to the NCAA Plenary Session where NCAA President Mark Emmert delivered his "State of the NCAA" address. Following the event, the group was granted an audience with Division III Vice-President Dan Dutcher, who shared his delight in seeing so many student-athletes at the Convention.
"Meeting with this group has become an annual convention highlight," said Dutcher. "Through this program, the SCAC is creating the next generation of leaders in intercollegiate athletics. From my interaction with these young men and women, our future is in good hands!"
A delegates reception that evening allowed many of the SCAC student-athletes to network and mingle with athletic administrators from around the nation, including many athletic directors and presidents.
“I think my favorite part has just been being able to network," Trevor Wren, a member of the Schreiner University baseball team, said. "Being able to meet a lot of cool people and being able to meet people that can help me in my future. I want to go into a job in the sports world, so being able to be here and meet a whole bunch of people who are going to better my future is really a cool thing to do and be a part of.”
Friday included more educational sessions as well as a chance to attend the NCAA Division III Issues Forum and an opportunity to participate in several roundtable discussions regarding issues facing the Division. Several student-athletes commented on how enjoyable it was to provide feedback during this session.
"I really learned about the scope of student-athletes within the institutional, conference and national SAAC and the strong influence that they have on creating legislation, amending legislation and continuing conversations on issues that affect Division III," said Liza Huschle, a member of the Colorado College track and field team.
Following an assocation luncheon, the group attended the SCAC Athletics Directors Council meeting to provide feedback and answer questions regarding different pieces of legislation scheduled to be voted on during the following day’s business session. Many of the student-athletes commented that attending the conference's annual winter ADs Council meeting was a highlight of the week.
"My favorite event would have to be sitting with the athletic directors and sharing a table with them, as well as other representatives of each school of the SCAC," said Davis King, a member of the Trinity University football team. "There’s no other opportunity like that for student-athletes to get that chance to share their perspective.”
“Meeting with the athletic directors of all nine schools in the SCAC and getting a chance to ask them questions and seeing them talk about proposed legislation was really interesting and king of inspiring to me," said Daniel Krueger, a member of the Colorado College men's soccer team. "People here are true professionals. I knew my athletic director, but it was a great chance to really meet a bunch of different people at all sorts of school from Division I to Division III.”
The Convention’s final day saw the SCAC 16 attend the Division III business session where they had an opportunity to watch as attendees discussed and voted on the nine proposals brought forward for consideration by the membership.
Before everyone departed and headed back to campus, the conference office sat down with the SCAC student-athletes to ask each of them their prominent takeaway from the week. A common theme expressed by many was a sense of pride in representing their institutions and the SCAC while getting the opportunity to meet fellow students and administrators from other Division III institutions.
“This convention has been incredible," said Angelica Grayson, a member of the Southwestern University women's soccer team. "They say 'Why D3' and I’ve just really learned through this experience what Division III stands for, and how these people involved with Division III are more than just athletes, they’re incredibly bright people and students. They’re leaders, they’re impactful in their community. Division III cares a lot about investing in the community around it, and that’s 'Why Division III'.”
For others, experiencing the NCAA Convention opened their eyes into a world that they didn’t know existed or at least not to the magnitude they had imagined.
"There’s no way I would have been able to meet these people without this opportunity," said Gregg Gutierrez, a men's soccer player at Schreiner University. "Meeting people from New York to Los Angeles and all throughout the country. This has been one of the greatest experiences of my life."