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Publish date: Nov 8, 2011

SAAC chair emphasizes group’s role as change agent

By Michelle Brutlag Hosick

When Scott Krapf read that a group of student-athletes had signed a petition advocating for initiatives aimed at improving student-athlete well-being, he was puzzled.

Scott Krapf

Krapf, the chair of the Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, said his gut reaction to the petition from the National College Players Association was why the SAAC was left out of the loop. That’s not necessarily because he agreed with what the petition seeks to accomplish but because the SAAC is the most credible student-athlete group in the NCAA governance structure to effect change.

The student-athletes who signed the petition want a portion of NCAA television revenues to more clearly benefit student-athletes. The petition, received at the national office from student-athletes at UCLA, Purdue and Georgia Tech, requests the money be used for “education, integrity and basic protections” like preventing permanently injured players from losing their scholarships and paying for sports-related medical expenses.

Krapf noted that some of the items the group requested, such as multi-year scholarships and raising limits to allow for funding beyond the amount of a full scholarship, were approved by the Division I Board of Directors last month.

But beyond that, Krapf believes that a petition is not the best method for student-athletes to influence change. Instead, he believes the SAAC, which has representatives at every Division I cabinet and council, should be the group interacting with Division I decision-makers.

“The NCAA has a mechanism by which the student-athletes can have a direct line of communication to those who are making these important decisions,” Krapf said. “Those decision-makers definitely seek our feedback; they want to hear from us.”

Krapf said the SAAC has not discussed the substance of the petition but that the group will do so later this month as part of its review of the presidential working groups appointed after the August presidential retreat. He hopes the student-athletes signing the petition – which include several in nonrevenue sports – will consider working through SAAC to make their voices heard in the future. 

In the past year, the national SAAC representatives (one from every Division I conference) have made considerable effort to get feedback from their individual conferences, especially in the high-profile sports of football and men’s and women’s basketball. Issues such as examining academic issues in those sports prompted SAAC members to solicit opinions from their colleagues. However, it wasn’t always easy to get feedback from those in high-profile sports.

“Perhaps that message hasn’t been communicated well enough to the general student-athlete population, so that they know we have the ability to influence these decisions,” Krapf said.

Kelvin Beachum

Kelvin Beachum, a football student-athlete from SMU, is a member of both the NCPA and the national SAAC. He is a proponent for student-athletes making their voices heard through any means necessary, and he believes the NCPA message of improved student-athlete well-being is a good one. But he also agrees with Krapf: He thinks the SAAC could lend a more credible voice.

“If you’re so passionate about these issues, why not get involved in the SAAC? I’m on board with what they (the NCPA members) are doing, but the way they went about it could have been different,” Beachum said. “The SAAC is geared toward talking directly to NCAA officials about the issues.”

Krapf said he looks forward to representing the voice of all student-athletes – not just the ones with the desire to serve on SAAC.

“I recognize that there are student-athletes who want to be heard,” he said. “I hope they can see what our committee can do for them.”