GANSEVOORT, N.Y. – SUNY Polytechnic Institute senior baseball student-athlete Connor Passalacqua (Whitestown, N.Y.) just wrapped up his three-year term as the North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) National Division III Representative, which he served from the Fall of 2013 through this year’s National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Convention in January.
While serving in this role, Passalacqua represented the NEAC and partner conference North Atlantic Conference (NAC) during all National NCAA Division III SAAC meetings, which included each of the last three NCAA Conventions. His role also saw him serve on the Committee on Competitive Safe Guards and Medical Aspects of Sports (CSMAS) along with being featured in the National SAAC’s “You Can Play” and “It’s On Us” video campaigns.
Below is a question-and-answer session with Connor regarding his experience as the NEAC’s National NCAA Division III SAAC Representative:
1) What was your favorite aspect while serving in your role as our NCAA Division III SAAC representative?
My favorite aspect of my role in the National SAAC was seeing firsthand how the NCAA itself is structured. It's not just (people) sitting in a room making decisions for the Division. They have so many committees putting input on legislation like CSMAS, the National SAAC and specific sports committees.
2) What did you take away most from your three years as our representative?
The thing I took away in my three years is that the student-athlete really does have a voice in the NCAA. Each year there was at least one piece of legislation where the voice of the student-athletes changed the opinions of the Division when voting on legislation.
3) What did your involvement with Special Olympics through SAAC mean to you?
My involvement with the Special Olympics through SAAC was truly a memorable one. Seeing the athletes at each meeting and playing in a unified sport program with them was always a highlight of any one of my trips!
4) What did you take away from your role as a member of the Committee on Competitive Safe Guards and Medical Aspects of Sports (CSMAS)?
The thing I took away from serving on CSMAS was seeing the focus the NCAA had on the student-athlete well-being. Recently their big topic is concussions with the NCAA research project with the D.O.D., but they also look at nutrition, sleep patterns, periodization, early specialization, etc. They really have a lot on their plate and sometimes go unrecognized for the work they do for the association.
5) You were also featured in the National SAAC’s “You Can Play” and “It’s On Us” video campaigns. What did being a part of those campaigns mean to you?
It meant a lot to be featured in the video projects during my time on National SAAC. We are all athletes from different schools all competing for the same thing: a chance at the championship, but when we can put that aside and come together as a Division to show our athletes how much we care about them outside of athletics as well, especially in topics such as inclusion and sexual assault.
6) As our rep, you were able to attend the last three NCAA Conventions. Were you able to take away something new from each one?
After going to convention for the last three years I definitely learned something new at each one. At my first convention, I learned about how the NCAA works, outside of what the average person might see on the TV or hear on the radio. My second year taught me more on how to better prepare myself. For example, that was the year I joined CSMAS and the Olympic Sport Liaison Committee and had to provide updates on both committees at each National SAAC meeting. During my last convention, I learned about the power of friendship and what it means to be on this committee. It might sound cheesy, but at the end of convention when we we're saying our final goodbyes. Some of us may never see each other again and we spent the last 2-3 years really getting to each other. Everyone that I have met through the National SAAC holds a special place in my heart and they have forever changed the way I value my friendships now.
7) Speaking of the convention, how did you help our new SAAC rep Nicole Monick transition into the role at this year’s convention?
I helped Nicole out by introducing her to Commissioner Murray so she can get a feel for what the NEAC is and what the conference aims for. Also, when we had meetings at convention I would answer any questions she had on anything she didn't understand yet or how things are done in the committee.
8) What part of this year’s convention in particular did you enjoy the most?
The thing I enjoyed the most at this year's convention was the time the National SAAC was able to meet with the student-athletes who were able to attend convention. They were a great group of student-athletes who had a lot of questions for us on what we do as a National SAAC and any advice we had for them to bring back to their own institutional SAAC groups.
9) Now that you have attended them multiple times, what advice would you give to a student-athlete that attends the NCAA Convention for the first time in the future, in terms of preparation?
My advice for people attending convention for the first time is not to feel overwhelmed by how constantly busy convention is. They should also do some research on some of the topics the NCAA is looking into and have questions for people they’re going to meet.
10) Now that you are approaching the end of your senior year, what are your plans after graduation (graduate school, work field of interest, etc.)? Along with that, how did your time as our SAAC rep help you with your short-term and long-term goals for both your upcoming career and life in general?
As I come to the end of my time at SUNY Poly, my plan is to take a year off so I can get the rest of my prerequisites completed for Physical Therapy school starting in 2017. National SAAC had taught me so many things such as public speaking, making connections and leadership. These qualities that I have further developed are going to help me with my short-term goals and in life in general because it's hard to find these types of experiences out in the real world. I got lucky to be selected as a National SAAC representative and I'm so thankful for it.
The North Eastern Athletic Conference has fourteen NCAA Division III member institutions which include: Bryn Athyn College, Cazenovia College, College of St. Elizabeth, Gallaudet University, Keuka College, Lancaster Bible College, Pennsylvania College of Technology, Pennsylvania State University - Abington, Pennsylvania State University - Berks, SUNY Cobleskill, SUNY Morrisville State College, SUNY Polytechnic Institute, Wells College, and Wilson College. Associate members are: Cedar Crest College (W Swimming), D’Youville College (M Volleyball), Hilbert College (M Lacrosse & M Volleyball), Medaille College (M&W Lacrosse & M Volleyball), Penn State Altoona (M Volleyball) and Rutgers University - Camden (M Golf). The North Eastern Athletic Conference has partnered with the North Atlantic Conference in the sports of field hockey and men’s and women’s tennis.