Oct. 12, 2015
By Cassie Logan | @c4ssielogan
ARLINGTON, Texas - UT Arlington is breaking away from its commuter school image with students' newfound belief in tradition, according to baseball senior Darien McLemore.
Sidewalks are chalked on game days, student-athletes are seen around campus in Maverick gear and there's been a steady growth in fan attendance over the last few years.
That's the power of the UTA Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
"All of the student-athletes who are on the committee share a goal and that's to leave UTA better than when we got here," said McLemore, SAAC President. "With the direction that we're going in right now, that's really possible, especially with all the promotional things that we do around campus. We're touching students on campus and letting them know that we're all united."
SAAC was established in 1989 and meets monthly to discuss issues of concern to student-athletes. It provides them an opportunity to communicate academic, athletic and social recommendations with UTA athletic administration, coaches and staff. The group is made up of 29 members with one to three appointed from each UTA team, and also includes athletic department staff as advisors.
Externally, the committee is responsible for bridging the gap between UTA students and student-athletes in an effort to build relationships, increase participation at athletic functions and make a stronger impact in the community.
And what may be the organization's most successful event will celebrate its 16th year in November. SAAC is hosting its canned food drive and all donations will be given to Tarrant County Food Bank in December.
The committee sets a 2,000-can goal each year, which is annually exceeded, though historically the drive has only reached the athletic department. So in its push to make a difference in the community and unite the campus, SAAC has proposed a greater challenge.
"We decided as a committee that we should branch out to the rest of the campus and maybe even the rest of Arlington," McLemore said. "We've been talking to different organizations on campus to get drop box locations. This year we're setting our goal at 5,000 cans and want to see how much we can get our campus together for this cause."
The group has also been busy promoting UTA Volleyball's eighth annual Dig Pink Match presented by Ben Hogan Sports Medicine against Texas State on Oct. 15 at 6:30 p.m. at College Park Center.
The Mavericks are continuing their partnership with Side-Out Foundation, which unites volleyball programs around the country to raise breast cancer awareness through philanthropic efforts. The funds are contributed to various organizations that provide for breast cancer patients, whether it is in the form of research, medical services or patient support.
"I know it's such a big cause with very little information about it and we just want to find a cure," volleyball junior Cassidy Wheeler said. "It gets personal with athletes. You always hear stories of their family members and friends who have been affected by breast cancer."
UTA surpassed its 2014 goal of raising $3,000 when it garnered $5,191.22 in October for Side-Out. This season the Mavs expect to reach $3,000, but Wheeler's team and SAAC are aiming higher.
The Mavericks swept Texas State in last season's Dig Pink match with the help of 1,251 roaring fans, the CPC's largest volleyball crowd to date. McLemore and various SAAC members were all present to witness the match that started a trend of increased fan attendance and more energetic crowds.
And SAAC is out to prove its work won't stop there.
"Every year, we're trying to get out there and do more in the community, around campus and in the athletic department," McLemore said. "Everyone who is in SAAC is an ambitious person, so once one thing gets accomplished, it's seeing what else we can add on top of that. We always have people on the committees who are willing to push the program."
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