GANSEVOORT, N.Y. – This past April, the athletics departments of all 14 full-member schools in the North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) were engaging in multiple events on their campuses and in their communities to help recognize and appreciate their student-athletes.
These efforts were done as a celebration of NCAA Division III Week, an annual event that provides a positive opportunity for all individuals associated with a Division III institution to observe and celebrate the impact athletics and student-athletes have on campus and in the surrounding community. This year’s event was held during the week of April 6-12.
During the week, every Division III school and conference office is encouraged by the NCAA to conduct a type of outreach activity that falls into one of three categories: academic accomplishment; athletic experience; or leadership/community service/campus involvement. NEAC members did just that, hitting on all three throughout the week in a variety of ways. As a conference, the NEAC Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) planned a “NEAC Community Service Day” that each school participated in throughout the week in an effort to maintain its annual tradition of giving back to its members’ surrounding communities.
Below are highlights of those events and others done by each NEAC school throughout the week:
Bryn Athyn College did a spotlight piece on three student-athletes regarding “why they chose Bryn Athyn and Division III athletics.” Student-athletes from every sport also wrote on a Post-It note what it meant to play Division III sports at Bryn Athyn College, which can be viewed through the cover photo of this article. The Lions took this opportunity to express the values in which they have learned and experienced while playing sports at Bryn Athyn. Additionally, the women’s lacrosse team heled a week-long sneaker drive, with the donations being donated to the homeless shelters of Philadelphia.
Cazenovia College got things started by interviewing a student-athlete from each sport about why those chose Division III athletics and shared them on their social media outlets throughout the week. They also had a "Twitter Takeover" event, where a pair of student-athletes were given the keys to the athletics Twitter handle to promote the week's events and also share various facts about Division III and Cazenovia College athletics. Cazenovia also had a photo/video contest that allowed teams to earn points towards the student-athlete experience program. Photos winners included pictures of teammates with a Cazenovia alumnus that was a former student-athlete, photos of team meals and photos of athletes with their professors.
Lastly, and most prominent, was a week-long food drive held by the school’s SAAC members. The group set up a table outside of the dining hall for faculty and staff to drop off donation items, while also allowing free admission to a women’s lacrosse home game if fans brought an item. All donations benefitted the food pantry located at the nearby Syracuse Boys and Girls Club.
College of Saint Elizabeth held a variety of events on campus. The Eagles held a volleyball tournament that included student-athletes, department staff and even faculty members. They also held a “campus cleanup” event where student-athletes volunteered to clean the windows and basements of various campus buildings, as well as the cafeteria lunch tables and dormitory kitchens. The athletics department also teamed with the nutrition department to hold a Nutrition Day. Fruit smoothies were offered to everyone on campus with the goal of showing that eating healthy can be a fun group activity while tasting good as well. Athletic trainer Maesoon Deeb also used the event to present an educational program on alcohol awareness.
Gallaudet University started off with numerous events on Monday, April 6. That day also marked National Student-Athlete Day, in which Gallaudet announced its 56 student-athletes who met the criteria to be recognized for the honor. The department also used that day to announce its 68 student-athletes that made the Fall Dean's List, while a healthy snack giveaway for all student-athletes was held as well.
Monday also kicked off a week’s worth of student-athlete spotlights, with two profiles being released each day for six straight days followed by one on Sunday. All 13 of the Bison’s varsity sports were represented, with one profile getting featured on the official NCAA Division III Facebook and Twitter pages. Below is a list of each spotlight:
Gallaudet Division III Week Student-Athlete Spotlight: In My Words
Monday: Todd Bonheyo (Men's Basketball) | Brianna Stroud-Williams (Women's Swimming & Diving) Tuesday: John Isaacson (Men's Track and Field) | Kristi Luna (Softball)
Wednesday: Todd Collins (Football) | Lindsay Corthell (Women's Track and Field)
Thursday: Mitchell Bensman (Baseball) | Leslye Kang (Women's Basketball)
Friday: Abdiel Davila-Cruz (Men's Swimming) | Ivy Sahneyah (Women's Cross Country)
Saturday: Neal Matthews (Men's Cross Country) | Sofia Lindevall (Women's Soccer)
Sunday: Darriyan Thomas (Women's Volleyball)
Keuka College participated in the annual “Celebrate Yates, Celebrate Service” day on Sunday, April 12. Keuka student-athletes joined nearly 300 volunteers to help out at an event-record 32 nonprofit work sites around Yates County. Members of the Wolfpack athletic teams were spread out all over the county to help during the day, with many being profiled in this news article found here.
Lancaster Bible College used the week to highlight the Division III Student-Athlete experience. They touched on that topic at all home games held during the week, including sharing various facts and figures on NCAA Division III.
A team spotlight was also done on various members of the baseball team, which can be found here.
Morrisville State College began the week with a “Powderpuff” flag football game held in its Recreation Center and attended by numerous Mustang student-athletes. The Mustangs also held their annual ‘Stang Athletics Awards ceremony on Friday to honor and recognize the various achievements of their student-athletes in athletics, academics and community service. On Sunday, Morrisville SAAC held a basketball clinic for local traveling teams in the Central New York Region Special Olympics. Over 20 Special Olympians participated as members of the Mustang men's basketball, women's basketball, football and women's cross country teams put them through 30 minutes of offensive and defensive drills to start off the day. After the skill session part of the afternoon concluded, the Wildcats, Cougars and Phoenix teams got the chance to scrimmage the Mustang athletes and show off their skills. Video highlights can be found here.
Morrisville also released a variety of profiles that featured faculty members chosen to be spotlighted by the student-athletes as shown here and here, as well as testimonials from student-athletes on their favorite professors, as shown here and here.
Penn College held a food drive from Thursday through Sunday, collecting throughout the campus on Thursday and Friday before using a pair of softball doubleheaders to generate donations on Saturday and Sunday. Those contests, along with home tennis matches during the week, were also highlighted throughout campus to gain fan support for the student-athletes. The Wildcat scholar-athletes were also recognized by the athletics department during the week.
Penn State Abington held a student-athlete picnic where hamburgers, hot dogs, sandwich wraps, chips and drinks were provided to all student-athletes. The day also featured a “Pie in the Face” event where student-athletes had the chance to throw a pie at athletics director Shawne McCoy and various Abington head coaches. The event was used to help raise awareness and funds for the Sara’s Smiles Foundation, a charity that strives to provide happy memories for child cancer patients spending extended time in the hospital. An “inspiration station” was also set up so that student-athletes could create “inspirational clouds” by writing messages, quotes and good tidings that were then delivered to those children through Sara’s Smiles along with the $236 raised on the day.
Penn State Berks held Pink Game fundraisers on Saturday through its home games for baseball, softball and men’s and women’s tennis. Between donations at those contests and a pink T-shirt sale held by SAAC, Berks was able to raise a school-record $1,054 that was donated to the Breast Cancer Support Services of Berks County. Combining that total with the Pink Games held throughout rest of the year, Berks raised over $1,600 for the organization. Berks SAAC also held a pet food drive throughout the throughout the week, while several group members also went on a leadership program in Gettysburg, which explained leadership by walking around the grounds where battle took place and used examples of leadership during the war.
SUNY Cobleskill held several events throughout the week. On Monday, the Department of Sport & Exercise served as the local host site for the 2015 Major League Baseball "Pitch, Hit, and Run" skills competition. Administered by the softball team, the free event was open to boys and girls between the ages of seven and 14. The festivities continued on Tuesday when the department highlighted the community service, academic excellence and athletic achievements of the athletics program with a multimedia retrospective of the year's accomplishments in those areas.
On Wednesday, Cobleskill took part in National Student-Athlete Day by honoring its student-athletes that received the recognition with an awards ceremony on campus. The student-athlete recognition continued on Thursday, as all Fighting Tigers that received All-Conference, All-Regional and All-American awards throughout the year were honored at a campus luncheon.
For its NEAC community service initiative, the SUNY Cobleskill SAAC also sponsored a campus-wide shoe drive during the week to help local charities provide footwear for those in need.
SUNY Polytechnic Institute saw junior Connor Passalacqua, who is the NEAC’s National SAAC representative, be highly involved with the “You Can Play” campaign, which focuses on ending homophobia in sports and ensuring equality for LGBTQ athletes. The National SAAC group made a video to highlight its support of the initiative, with their motto being “if you can play, you can play in Division III.” The video, which was played throughout Division III during the week, can be viewed here, with Connor’s appearance being found at the 0:36 mark.
Wells College held a Field Day event through SAAC for the local Southern Cayuga school district. Children from the district were invited to the Wells campus to participate in various athletic activities with the Express SAAC members. Snacks were also handed out during the fun-filled day.
Wilson College began the week with free giveaways to fans during its softball doubleheader on Monday. That was followed by nationally recognized sport psychologist Dr. Joel Fish giving a sportsmanship presentation to all Wilson student-athletes Tuesday. Wednesday saw a variety of events, beginning with a luncheon to recognize all Wilson scholar-athletes, followed by a Faculty and Staff Appreciation event held during the Phoenix softball games that afternoon. The day was capped off with a dodgeball tournament open to the entire campus community.
A “Random Act of Kindness Day” spearheaded by SAAC was held Thursday as part of the NEAC community service initiative, which emphasized to the campus community to do good deeds throughout the day. Back-to-back softball doubleheaders during the weekend were also celebrated as “Pink Out for Breast Cancer Awareness” contests. The Phoenix wore pink jerseys in both contests and saw fans do the same in the stands, with a non-alcoholic tailgate also being held Saturday to help raise awareness and donations for the cause.
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 men’s and women’s tennis.