July 2, 2014
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The Notre Dame Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) has long been recognized as one of the nation's top student-athlete leadership organizations, and the Fighting Irish SAAC added another honor to its resume this week as a recipient of the 2013-14 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Sportsmanship Award.
Notre Dame was one of two groups selected for the honor (along with the Duke baseball team), plus Florida State swimmer Hannah Wilson, was chosen as part of the ACC's ongoing implementation of various sportsmanship initiatives with an emphasis on the importance of integrity between student-athletes, coaches, officials, administrators, alumni and fans.
Award recipients are chosen from institutional nominees submitted by each school. To be considered, nominees must consistently demonstrate good sportsmanship and ethical behavior during participation in intercollegiate athletics, as well as in the community, and be in good academic standing.
The Notre Dame SAAC earned this year's ACC Sportsmanship Award because of its unique outreach to fellow conference members during Notre Dame's first year in the ACC. Throughout the 2013-14 academic year, the Fighting Irish SAAC, working closely with the Notre Dame athletics event management staff, provided fruit/snack baskets at each visiting ACC opponent's hotel (one each for the team and head coach of the new conference visitors).
What's more, the Notre Dame SAAC officers included a card with the following message:
"We look forward to facing great competition as a new member of the ACC and would like to welcome you to the Notre Dame campus for the first time as a conference member."
"I'm honored and really very proud of our group," said Jes Christian, 2013-14 SAAC president and senior women's track & field athlete. "As athletes, we established ourselves as strong competitors in our first year of ACC competition, winning conference championships in women's basketball and men's lacrosse and consistently finishing among the top half of the league in virtually every sport. However, it's even more impressive to me that we were able to do so with humility and respect towards the other ACC schools.
"Our main goal this year within SAAC was to bring our student-athletes closer together," Christian added. "This honor helps acknowledge the success of that mission. We wanted to establish that we have 26 sports at Notre Dame, but that we share the same values and goals. Those values include treating our competitors with respect, hospitality and gratitude, because at the end of the day, we would not be able to compete in the sports we love without them."
The fruit/snack baskets were the cornerstone of a larger campaign by the University's athletics department to take its well-regarded game management and hospitality efforts to greater heights by expressing the school's excitement at joining the new conference.
In addition to the hotel baskets, University vice president/director of athletics Jack Swarbrick and senior deputy athletics director Missy Conboy drafted a letter to each school's head coaches and director of athletics, personally conveying their excitement at that team's upcoming visit to Notre Dame. A similar outreach took place between each Fighting Irish sport administrator and his/her ACC counterpart.
"We wanted to make sure that every conference school knew how excited Notre Dame was to be a part of the ACC," Conboy said. "To that end, we determined that the best way to do that was to make every ACC team's first visit to Notre Dame a memorable one. SAAC worked with our game management staff to facilitate these special treats for the student-athletes, and I'm glad we were able to share our genuine excitement and enthusiasm about being part of such a fabulous conference."
The Notre Dame SAAC is coordinated through the University's Student Welfare & Development (SWD) Office, which is led by senior associate athletics director Mike Harrity. For more information on SAAC, as well as the numerous other successful outreach programs coordinated by the Notre Dame Student Welfare & Development Office, including leadership and career development, community service, and safety and awareness training, visit the SWD web site at swd.nd.edu, follow the office on Twitter (@notredameswd), like its Facebook page (facebook.com/NDswd) or stop by its YouTube channel (youtube.com/FightingIrishSWD).
-- Chris Masters, Associate Athletic Media Relations Director