The following was written by Maddie Fiorante, a junior on the UGA Equestrian Team and a team representative to the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
Despite the end of fall semester, the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee continues their efforts to better University of Georgia student-athlete lives. Recently, the committee gave input to new NCAA legislature.
Representatives from each University of Georgia athletic team work together on SAAC to assist officials to help improve student-athletes’ lives. Their mission statement includes acting as a voice for student-athletes within the Southeastern Conference.
The committee meets regularly with UGA’s athletic director, Greg McGarity, to discuss issues affecting students while also organizing social functions and community outreach projects.
Meetings range from discussing major changes such as per diem and scholarship funds to tiny details of filling out health forms. The members are appointed by head coaches, and range from two to nine representatives depending on the team.
“SAAC members are student-athlete leaders from each team that are responsible and have a positive student athlete image,” said Heather LaBarbera, director of student services.
SAAC has recently worked on diverse projects to help better Georgia’s athletic association. For example, the committee gathered input for newly proposed NCAA legislation about monetary uses for traveling athletes.
“We want to make sure everyone gets the same opportunities, such as getting healthy meals when traveling,” said equestrian SAAC member Julia Spreng. “Just expressing those concerns has already led to an increase in other budgets like per diems and recruiting.”
Monday night, SAAC invited Ron Courson, UGA’s head director of sports medicine, to discuss new challenges and concerns with the athletic association’s behavioral medicine. Courson, eager to hear the committee’s thoughts on how to better accommodate Georgia athletes and how to implement their ideas, even went into detail about the form given out when seeking medical attention.
“Athletics brings things to us just as we bring things to them,” said SAAC President Jonathan Pelham. “It’s a very mutual relationship on bettering one another.”
The feedback gathered from each committee within the Southeastern Conference translates to two SAAC representatives who sit on the NCAA board and push for decisions the majority votes for. Georgia SAAC members have used their voices to impact national level changes. In just one semester, they directly advocated for many on-campus differences, including bus routes and shelter in addition to their more recent projects.
“We are the voice of every student-athlete and we aim to create an extremely inclusive environment in which every athlete feels at home,” said Pelham.