Diving Into The Deep Ends

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Pacific student represents the NWC at NCAA conferences. 

Whether in the pool at the Forest Grove Aquatic Center or halfway across the country, Maddie Russell has always found herself invested in the world of sports. And, as she concludes her senior year, she has found a critical voice as the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) president for Pacific University as well as the Northwest Conference representative for the NCAA.

   Russell came to Pacific to pursue a collegiate athletic career in swimming. By her sophomore year, she had joined SAAC as a representative of the swim team. It was there that she realized she had really found something she was passionate about. “When I joined SAAC, it was very much in the rebuilding phase. I was kind of thrown into it my sophomore year. I worked really hard to become comfortable in the role, and I really enjoy it.” Serving three years as a member of SAAC, Russell has been a key player in the recent rise of the Red Den.

   The Red Den is the student section that has become essential for the Pacific community. Traveling to away games, and showing up in big numbers at home games, having a strong student section has been a direct reflection of Russell’s work. As a senior serving her last term, it can be worrying wondering what will happen to the work that has been done. “I know that if I do not prepare the next group then they are going to be just as uncomfortable as I was when I started.”

   Working with the NCAA can be a daunting for Division III representatives, as Division I tends to hog most of the attention. But with over 500,000 NCAA athletes at the DI through DIII levels, there is more than March Madness and football Bowl games, and with a single governing body in charge of so many athletes, there can be a lot of disconnect. 

   For example, the NCAA is responsible for rule-making in sports, such as the dramatic recent volleyball rule change. The new rule states that “players can contact the ball more than once with any part of the body in a single attempt on a team’s second contact when the ball is played to a teammate.” By allowing representatives such as Russell to have a voice in different conferences and meetings makes room for the voices of the students to be heard. 

   Perhaps one of the biggest changes and issues over the past decade has been a recognition for gender equality, and the NCAA appointed a new president in the new year, Charlie Baker. “He is really focusing on women’s sports,” points out Russell. “He is also paying attention to all levels, not just division one athletes… These kinds of things I am really excited about.” 

Avari Schumacher
Editor-in-Chief & Writer

Major: Sports Communications

Hometown: Stayton, OR

Hobbies: Watching baseball, thrifting, skincare, hanging out with my pets, snowboarding, and going on walks.

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