Council of athletes raises campus interest in sports

There are few schools like Carnegie Mellon when you find more people in computer clusters than the football stadium on Saturday afternoons. And while that may get the academic heads smiling, it reflects the general apathy with which the school views its sports. It has denied students their athletics, and athletes their fans.
To counteract the often neglected state of CMU sports, new athletic director Susan Bassett organized the school?s first ever Student-Athlete Advisory Council. Bassett designed the SAAC? which meets every two weeks and is comprised of two members from each varsity team? to improve the general state of varsity athletics. One area of particular emphasis was raising the awareness and attendance at varsity events.
?Our priority this year is to raise awareness on campus about our intercollegiate programs and to provide spirit and support for our teams as they compete,? said Bassett.
?We?re not trying to get the whole student body out to our games,? added SAAC president David Krzeminski. ?But at least we need some improvement and this is a good way to start.?
The SAAC has already considered several ways to raise the profile of the school?s athletics. One idea suggested at a recent meeting was a Carnival-type event with basketball shooting contests, T-shirt giveaways, and food. Other ideas have included offering pre-game tailgating parties similar to the one held before Saturday?s packed football game against Thiel, tabling and posting fliers to advertise important games.
Another function of the SAAC is to build inter-team relationships and to create a more well-defined athletic community. As Aanand Radia, a golfer and member of the SAAC, said, ?One of the biggest problems with our system is the disjoint between teams. This will build some camaraderie and help to get [all of the athletes] to the other teams? matches.?
There are already plans for an athletes? ball to be held off-campus at some point in the second semester. Also in the works are several varsity barbecue events, including one before a home basketball doubleheader. Finally, to build support between teams, a brother-sister system was arranged that will pair different teams together (the football and men?s basketball teams are one tentative grouping) to attend and promote each other?s games.
The SAAC, though, is not just geared toward boosting attendance and creating a more closely-knit athletic community; another key focus of the group is addressing the more menial problems individual to each team. The group?s meetings act as a venting ground for players disgruntled by various problems with equipment, field conditions, or scheduling mishaps.
?It gives us [athletes at CMU] a voice for any issues, problems or concerns we might have,? said Krzeminski. ?It?s nice to have a place to turn to make changes and get things done.?
A big reason the forum is so successful in this regard is because it does indeed make changes. With Bassett present at the meetings, students know that their complaints and suggestions will be met with action. In one instance, several athletes complained that because classes were scheduled during practices they were often forced to miss important review sessions or frustrate their coaches by showing up late to practice. In response, Bassett drafted a letter to go out to the heads of all the academic departments reminding them of the moratorium on classes during practice hours from 4:30 to 6:30, and also met privately with many instructors.
?It?s a good feeling to know what we say actually makes a difference here,? said tennis player and SAAC member Jordan Koslosky. ?I think we?re going to make a lot of positive changes.?