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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!

January 19, 2009 - Posted by | Basketball, College Sports Business, NCAA, Ohio University, Sports Administration, Uncategorized, Working in College Sports |

1 Comment »

  1. For all of those that have never experienced an NCAA Convention, I highly recommend it. There has been criticism in recent years that there is no reason to attend because the legislative process in Division I does not allow for schools to vote at Convention. However, the NCAA Convention is so much more than just a Division I gathering and so much more than just rules.

    From witnessing a strong statement from the Division I SAAC on the override vote to how the students helped the NCAA staff with DII and DIII business sessions, there is always something going on. Not only are there quality sessions on topics important to all Divisions, but the opportunity to network is second to none. You can bet that the NCAA staffers that were on the receiving end of the help provided by Christina and company will remember them. Plus, Division I does not operate in a vacuum. Even Division I administrators should be interested and concerned with current issues in Division II and III.

    For those further along in their career, the Convention can be counted on to re energize anyone before heading back to campus. It is an event where administrators can seek out solutions to issues they are facing, learn about where the Association is heading in the future, and connect with new and old friends.

    I have been to three NCAA Conventions and each time I have come away knowing that people that work in college athletics are intelligent, want to see everyone succeed, and are genuinely the nicest group of folks anywhere. The challenge after any professional gathering is keeping the excitement and energy going weeks and months after returning to the day to day responsibilities of work and/or school.

    I promise the NCAA isn’t paying me to promote the Convention. With the magic of technology, there is plenty of video and Convention content available at http://www.ncaa.org/wps/ncaa?ContentID=32443
    But, the computer can’t recreate the fellowship that is such an important part of being there in person.

    Comment by Heather Lawrence | January 20, 2009 | Reply

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