Ole Miss baseball pitcher Brady Bramlett traveled to San Antonio, Texas to represent the Southeastern Conference at the 2016 NCAA Convention. As one of three student-athletes from the SEC, Bramlett voted on proposed governance rule changes under the NCAA's Division I autonomy process. The redshirt junior, who majors in biological science, agreed to share his experience at the convention with OleMissSports.com.
By: Brady Bramlett
This past week I had the honor and privilege to attend the NCAA Convention in San Antonio, Texas as a member of the Division I National Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, otherwise known as SAAC, to represent the Southeastern Conference (SEC) as the student-athlete representative for the committee, as well as being one of the three student-athlete votes for the SEC in the Autonomy Business Session. As of last year I served as co-vice chair for Division I SAAC, but now I am serving as co-chair and will have a seat and vote on the Division I Board of Directors, which is composed of chancellors, presidents, athletic directors, senior women administrators, and commissioners of respective conferences throughout Division I.
During the convention, various committees and conferences congregate to discuss the future of collegiate athletics, and how to further improve the model of amateurism. One of the aspects of this is the Autonomy Business Session votes on proposals specific to the "Power 5" conferences (SEC, Atlantic Coastal Conference (ACC), Big 12, Big 10, and Pac 12). Three of the proposals dealt with the issues surrounding student-athlete time demands in regards to how to use an off-day, a "dead period" of no athletic activity following the championship season, and a "sleep period" that would not allow countable athletic activity. The proposals were instead tabled, and a resolution was passed to construct a specific plan to address the issues of time demands. For me, the concepts and the dialogues surrounding this issue are going in the right direction, but some fellow student-athletes do not agree, and were insistent upon taking immediate action. Yes, we do need action when it comes to the issues effecting student-athletes, but not without a proper plan. Action without direction is pure chaos, and the effects of passing proposals without knowing the full effect could be more detrimental than beneficial to the student-athlete.
It is also the responsibility of the student-athlete to take a step back and realize the implications of such issues. Collegiate athletics is in a downward spiral of transforming into a burden, rather than being celebrated as a gift and privilege. As Division I student-athletes, we understood what we were signing up for when we agreed to play the sport we love for the university we represent. We knew that the experience would be grueling on our minds and bodies, that we would wake up some mornings wondering if there would be enough time in the day to go to class, study, and play a game. We experience trials in life every day, whether it is as a student-athlete or not, but we learn and grow from a universal degree of experiences. Being a student-athlete prepares us that much more for the "real world" knowing that we can overcome any obstacle, because we have faced far greater difficulties before. I am not saying that there are not serious issues when it comes to the time expectations of the student-athlete. No system is perfect, but we have to have the self-awareness of what the specific issues are and how we can improve to protect the student-athlete experience.
The NCAA Convention is a time for all members, association wide, to come together and celebrate the beautiful realm that is the amateur model of collegiate athletics. Being a Division I student-athlete is an experience that far exceeds that of a typical college student, and being a part of the NCAA Convention amplifies that experience. As a member of SAAC, our mission is to serve the student-athlete body as a unified voice in the preservation of the student-athlete experience, but the question that most ask is what exactly is the student-athlete experience? The experience is waking up at the break of dawn to train our bodies to the epitome of health, going to class to earn a degree, training on the field to hone our skills to pursue and win a national championship, running countless miles and hundreds of sprints to condition our hearts and minds to defy the limitations of mind over matter, studying even more to overcome the challenges in the world of academia, and going to bed to wake up the next morning to do it all over again in the pursuit of greatness. The life of a student-athlete is not for everyone. It takes guts, nerves of steel, countless friends and family members present for support, and the drive and desire to be excellent, on and off the field. That is what fuels the student-athlete, and that is what fashions the student-athlete experience.