An NCAA Homecoming
As the former diversity and inclusion intern at the NCAA, I knew sharing the 2009 NCAA Convention with my colleagues as a professional development trip opportunity would help strengthen their network and define their direction in the industry, especially as we search for summer internships. For me, being able to experience Convention as a delegate rather than a staff member was an interesting twist to my young professional career.
Due to our MBA class schedule and responsibilities, our first day at Convention was Thursday. After attending NCAA educational sessions, checking out the vendors at the Trade Show, listening to the State of the Association speech, watching Billie Jean King receive the NCAA’s Gerald R. Ford award, and attending the Honors and Delegates Celebration at the Newseum, I was already overwhelmed with nostalgia and a sense of homecoming. This time last year I was working with the Division II Student-Athlete Advisory Committee in Nashville, Tennessee.
Friday presented another full schedule. The Division I Issues and Legislative Forums, lunch with alumni, and a meet-and-greet reception with various professionals filled our day. I was able to share a unique experience with my colleagues on how Division I legislation is passed or overridden. Most people think that the NCAA has the power to create and implement legislation. False! It’s actually the membership who drives legislative decisions and now I have 9 other graduate students as witnesses.
Anyway, for the fourth consecutive year, Division I was faced with another override vote regarding men’s basketball coaches observing nonscholastic events in April. High profile delegate, Damon Evans (chair of the Division I Leadership Council and University of Georgia athletic director) led the discussion on why Division I delegates should oppose the override. Army athletic director and chair of the Division I Men’s Basketball Issues Committee, Kevin Anderson, and Kerry Kenny, outgoing Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, also opposed the override. As a former Patriot League student-athlete, seeing Mr. Anderson and Mr. Kenny be two of the four speakers on the floor persuading the other delegates to oppose the override made me proud. Mr. Anderson’s statement, “We have to send a message, and if we don’t send a message we might as well take the ‘student’ off ‘student-athlete,’ ” reaffirmed why I believe there is magic in intercollegiate athletics.
As a young professional, I have found a common theme in working in intercollegiate athletics: service. If you are in this industry and aren’t in it to serve, you will have a short-lived career. With that mindset, we spent our Saturday morning helping NCAA staff finish up the Division II and III business sessions. We spent the evening touring the monuments and dinner in Georgetown with athletic administrators from my alma mater, American University. The city was buzzing in anticipation of the Presidential Inauguration events. We even saw the dress rehearsal for the actual event at the Lincoln Memorial.
Unfortunately, NCAA President Myles Brand was not in attendance at this year’s Convention. He later publicly announced that he has pancreatic cancer and the outlook “does not look good.” As the major advocate of the student-athlete academic reform movement, Dr. Brand’s work at the NCAA has shaped what intercollegiate athletics is today. My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.
A special thanks to the NCAA staff, Ohio University alumni family and friends, and American University for making this year’s Convention experience for me and my fellow colleagues unforgettable. I’d like to also thank the nine NCAA staff who have volunteered to serve as mentors in the Ohio University and NCAA Mentoring Program pilot. Lastly, thanks to Dr. Lawrence (our very own OU professor and fellow blogger) for her support and helping us connect with different professionals while in the District.
I can’t wait to start planning next year’s trip to Atlanta! I’m looking forward to seeing familiar faces and meeting new members of the intercollegiate athletics “family.” Big Peach, here we come!