The athletics department at UW-River Falls is a perfect example of how being a Div. III athlete means more than just simply playing sports.
“It is very important to the NCAA to get student-athletes involved outside of athletics,” said Janae Baron, Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) president.
SAAC is a team of student-athletes with representatives from every sports team and its primary purpose is to enhance the image of student-athletes both on campus and in the community by engaging in campus and community service projects while serving as role models for peers and younger adults, according to UWRF Sports Information.
To show the accomplishments of all the Div. III athletes the NCAA will be observing the second straight Div. III week set for April 9-15. The celebration is an opportunity for schools and conferences to publicly demonstrate the ways in which they provide a well-rounded collegiate experience for approximately 180,000 student-athletes competing in the NCAA’s largest membership division.
“The concepts of Div. III week is to show how well the athletes are integrated into the campus,” said Crystal Lanning, faculty advisor of SAAC.
Baron said it has been a blessing to have been part of SAAC and being involved here on campus as a Div. III athlete the past four years.
“Crystal Lanning has been a great advisor and UWRF has been a great school to be a part of,” Baron said.
Div. III athletes do not receive scholarships to play sports. They play solely for the love of the game.
“Being a Div. III athlete is special because we are all playing from the heart without getting any money,” Baron said.
One area that UWRF athletes have been strong in is in the classroom. Over 200 student-athletes at UWRF earned a 3.0 grade point average or above in the 2012 fall semester, according to UWRF Sports Information.
“You can’t be an athlete unless you’re a student first,” Baron said.
Baron also said how much it helps to have the support of the coaches when it comes to putting school first.
UWRF athletes have also shown a strong commitment to serving the community. So far in the 2012-2013 academic year over $9,000 has been earned in charity events done by UWRF Athletics. That includes the volleyball team’s annual “Dig for the Cure” and the first annual teddy bear round up this year.
UWRF Athletics also took part in a Polar Plunge where they raised $4,000 for the Special Olympics. Forty-two Falcon athletes took part in this event.
“Every year the NCAA teams up with a charitable organization and this year they choose the Special Olympics,” Lanning said.
This year, to celebrate Div. III week, Lanning said that SAAC is encouraging students to come out and support the track and field team along with the softball team as both have home events scheduled on April 13.
A special event that SAAC has planned to cap off the whole week is an outdoor viewing of the movie “Space Jam.”
“We are pushing for all students to come out and enjoy the event and movie and celebrate the success of the student-athletes at UWRF,” said Baron.