Student groups raise awareness for athletics

“I didn’t even know until after my freshman year that we had a varsity golf team,” recalled sophomore Becky Metler. This is probably true of a lot of Carnegie Mellon students, and explains why groups such as the Student Athletic Advisory Council (SAAC), Carnegie Clan, and Student Athlete Volunteer Experience (SAVE) are working together to bring athletics above ground both on campus and in the Pittsburgh community.

The end goal of all three organizations is to increase awareness, excitement, and respect for athletics, with SAAC working within Carnegie Mellon’s varsity community, the Carnegie Clan working within the campus community, and SAVE reaching out to the greater Pittsburgh community. Yes, Carnegie Mellon has a golf team — and 16 other varsity athletic programs, dozens of club teams, and an intramural program. Most importantly, Carnegie Mellon has students who truly care about athletics.

All University Athletic Association teams have a SAAC committee, although Carnegie Mellon’s remained inactive until this past year when new athletic director Susan Basset brought it to life. SAAC is an organization composed of two representatives from each varsity team who meet every other week to discuss issues surrounding Carnegie Mellon’s varsity programs.

Currently, SAAC is working to improve some of its locker rooms, change outdated year-end awards, and raise support between varsity programs. SAAC was also responsible for the concession stands that were available at basketball games and track meets this year. All the money that is raised by SAAC goes straight back to the athletes.

“I think the big thing we are trying to do is raise awareness for the athletes,” said SAAC co-chair and volleyball player Catie Fisher. “I just really want people to come to games. I hate the fact that we go to every other school and their stands are filled, and then you come to ours and for volleyball games only a quarter of the stands are filled. It’s really sad and depressing that no one wants to come out or no one even knows about us.”

This year SAAC plans to have an end-of-the-year barbecue for all athletes and next year plans to hold a ball. “It was our first year, but I think that we have accomplished a lot,” Fisher said.

The Carnegie Clan has a similar mission as the SAAC, but its focus is geared more towards raising the general student population’s awareness of athletics.

“It was interesting this year because we were trying to get people to events at the same time as SAAC was,” said Metler, an active member of both committees. “We were actually kind of stepping on each other’s toes, and it was frustrating because we didn’t really know what organization was doing what and we didn’t want people to get the two organizations confused. One is to better varsity athletes and one to get campus involved.”

“When we first started [Carnegie Clan] we were getting comments like ‘We have athletics on this campus?’ ” Metler said. Through school events, the Carnegie Clan works to get people actively involved with athletics. For example, they sponsor the Chili Cook-Off each year at the Homecoming football game. The Chili Cook-Off usually has about 20–30 entries, with “celebrity” judges such as President Cohon to choose the best recipe.

The Carnegie Clan plans to hold an arm-wrestling competition and an eating contest on April 29 as a University Center late-night program.

The organization is open to spirited students from outside the athletic program as well. “Anyone can join,” Metler said. “We love people to come to our meetings. Especially the people who are not athletes, because it’s easier to find out from them what will get people to games. I feel like sports has always been a big part of Carnegie Mellon; it’s just that the general population doesn’t know about it, and so we are trying to raise awareness.”

The Carnegie Clan sponsored a dunk tank on Midway at Carnival last year, where attendees could pay to dunk some of Carnegie Mellon’s athletes. The activity raised $1000 for the Special Olympics. This year, the Carnegie Clan will again have a dunk tank on Midway, but a portion of its earnings will go to the new student-run organization SAVE.

SAVE was formed this year by sophomore business majors Trent Sisson and Michael Reggie. The goal of this organization is to reach out to the Pittsburgh community and provide sports equipment and day camps for underprivileged grade-school children in the area.

“We were just talking about how we wanted to do something for the community and establish a student group where we could hold programs and things that we were actually interested in,” Sisson said.
On Saturday, SAVE plans to hold a soccer day camp to teach kids the basic ideas and skills of soccer. Staff members from the Boys and Girls Club will help run the event, along with some varsity soccer players from Carnegie Mellon and the members of SAVE. About 40 to 50 kids are expected to come to this event.

“We’re trying to get to the point where we can provide the camp for kids that don’t have all the options that they need,” Sisson said. “We’re starting with the Boys and Girls Club and we are trying to connect to various schools organizations — whatever we can connect to — but this is just our starting point.”
So far, SAVE officially has about 15 members. Although SAVE works closely with the Boys and Girls Club, most of their funds are raised through their own means. Their goals for now are to establish their program the in Pittsburgh community.

“My ultimate goal would be for people or a program to come to us, and they could provide the players to run events, and we would just take care of everything else,” Sisson said. “That would be ideal if we could do that. We’ll see if we can get to that point.”