By Miriam Kirk
Adi Hale, a senior majoring in social work, came to Trevecca because she had the opportunity to play basketball and be the first in her family to earn a college degree. She didn’t think she would become the president of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee and the first African American president at that.
“I’m honored to be the first African American president of SAAC. With Trevecca making this push to be inclusive of all ethnicities I feel that it’s accurate that we have an African American leading the SAAC committee,” Hale said.
SAAC stands for Student Athlete Advisory Committee and they act as the voice for student athlete’s needs on their individual campus and to the NCAA. The responsibilities of the president include setting the agenda for each meeting, coming up with fundraising ideas, organizing events and represent the university at the fall and spring conference meetings. One of the primary goals for SAAC is to raise money for Make-A-Wish a non-profit organization that creates life-changing wishes for children with a critical illness.
Mark Elliott, director of athletics, said committee members are to represent a positive student athlete image and make sure that it is communicated within each program.
“Each of our SAAC members are nominated by the committee, because they are leaders on and off the court and can communicate to each of their individual teams what our expectations are. Last spring Adi and Gracie Pierce, a former volleyball player, went to the Great Midwest Athletic Conference SAAC meeting in Ohio and Trevecca had raised zero dollars for Make-a-wish. That experience was the one that really pushed us to put more infuses on the importance of SAAC,” Elliott said.
Brodrick Thomas, director of community engagement and reconciliation, and the faculty representative for the committee, said the SAAC elected Adi president because she challenged them to do better.
“A more literal definition of SAAC president would be chief fundraiser, because that is our number one goal to help fundraise for Make-a-wish and give back to our community. Adi was elected president, because she came in that first meeting and was like “This is unacceptable. We sacrifice so much to wear this name on our jerseys and to be there and experience that embarrassment and being the only program who didn’t do something as simple as raise money for children is unacceptable,’ ” Thomas said.
Student-athletes have a voice in the NCAA through advisory committees at the campus, conference and national level. Each committee is made up of student-athletes assembled to provide insight on the student-athlete experience and offer input on the rules, regulations and policies that affect student-athletes’ lives on campus.
The purpose of the campus SAAC committee is to promote communication between athletic administration and student-athletes, provide feedback and insight into athletic department issues, build a sense of community within the athletics program involving all athletic teams, organize community service efforts, and promote a positive student-athlete image on campus.
Hale says it hasn’t been easy organizing.
“It’s been tough trying to show how important fundraising for Make-A-Wish or Acts Initiative, which is where we donate all of our hotel toiletries to the homeless shelter is. No one was there at the conference meeting to experience our name being up there not having raised a single dollar,” Hale said.
“We’ve actually made it into a competition. The team that raises the most money at the end of the year is awarded the Trojan Cup. Being athletes we’re competitive by nature and we just saw it as a good way to motivate teams to want to get involved in helping a great cause,” Hale said.
Thomas said SAAC is giving students the opportunity to get involved in a huge way and really do something that’s impactful.
“There’s the stereotype that athletes don’t want to get involved in certain things, but our athletes have done thing after thing to help our community. They were able to raise $2,000 to give shoes to the kids in the Nappier community. They created a mini golf tournament, had coffee fundraisers, and If we were to stop fundraising right now, we would have $1,200 to give to Make-A-Wish, but they want to keep doing more,” Thomas said.
When asked her responsibilities, Hale said with a laugh.
“I just work with Brodrick and do whatever he needs me to.”
“Adi is doing an incredible job. She has been a key member in organizing all the teams to work concessions where all the proceeds will go to Make-A-Wish. For a while the position had shifted, because the basketball season is from October to March, so Adi had kind of taken a back seat because of her responsibilities to school and basketball. Now that season is over, she’s able to do a lot more,” Thomas said.
“It’s definitely been time consuming because our committee has not been where it’s needed to be in previous years. But Mitchell Hockman, Broooke Eakes, Sydney Burdge and all the others have been really helpful in coming up with fundraising ideas, making this important to other athletes and we are doing way better than we did last year,” Hale said.
Athletes are creating a place to be involved.
“We want people to know that we are more than just our sport, we want to be proactive in our community just like everyone else,” Hale said.
“Our athletes are doing incredible things and that stereotype that student athletes aren’t trying to get involved is no longer applicable, because they are creating a place where they can be,” Thomas said.