NEAC National SAAC Representative Connor Passalacqua Holds Numerous Roles during NCAA Convention

SUNY Poly junior Connor Passalacqua served many important roles while representing the NEAC and partner conference NAC at this year’s NCAA Convention.
SUNY Poly junior Connor Passalacqua served many important roles while representing the NEAC and partner conference NAC at this year’s NCAA Convention.

GANSEVOORT, N.Y. – SUNY Polytechnic Institute junior Connor Passalacqua (Whitestown, N.Y.) served many important roles while representing the North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) and partner conference North Atlantic Conference (NAC) at this year’s National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Convention. 

Passalacqua, a member of the SUNY Poly Wildcat baseball team, is currently in his second year as the National NCAA Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) representative for both the NEAC and NAC.  As such, he made the trip for the second straight year along with the rest of the National SAAC representatives across all of Division III to attend multiple sessions and functions held at the convention, which was held from January 14-17 in Washington, D.C.  

To kick things off, Passalacqua and his fellow SAAC members volunteered at the Special Olympics Bocce and Relay program, where they teamed up with, competed against and cheered on 25 Special Olympians from the Maryland area during bocce games and a basketball-themed relay.  Multiple teams were split with a pair of National SAAC representatives partnering with two Special Olympians to take on another team with the same pairing for a few games of bocce, before moving to the relay to work on various basketball drills such as dribbling, passing and shooting. 

“That was one of my favorite sessions to be a part of!” exclaimed Passalacqua.  “Competing with them and against them is so much fun, especially in unified sports such as bocce, where a lot of the Special Olympic athletes are better than us (SAAC members).” 

Passalacqua was also involved in the business side of things, as he served on the main panel for the student-athlete health and wellness session alongside NCAA Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brian Hainline and fellow National SAAC member Amanda Ingersoll from Stevens Institute of Technology.  Passalacqua described his role in the session as a rewarding experience that allowed him to “speak on behalf of Division III student-athletes.” 

“We were able to meet with all 80 non-national SAAC members that attended and [we] had a blast,” said Passalacqua.  “Most of us expected them to be nervous because convention can be quite stressful at times, but they were focused and had a lot of questions for us, which made us excited!”

Passalacqua (left) will now continue with his work in helping improving the health and wellness of student-athletes, as he was also elected at the convention to serve on the Committee on Competitive Safe Guards and Medical Aspects of Sports (CSMAS), where he will work alongside a multitude of doctors, trainers, and sport science researchers from across the country. 

Capping off his efforts in that area was his feature role in the National SAAC’s “You Can Play” video, which premiered on the final day of the convention and can be viewed here. The video highlighted the Division III SAAC’s support of the national “You Can Play” campaign that focuses on ending homophobia in sports and ensuring equality for LGBTQ athletes, with SAAC’s motto being “if you can play, you can play in Division III.” 

“The experience was truly amazing,” Passalacqua said regarding his role in the campaign.  “Being a part of this video and helping set it up was really eye opening. I believe that anybody who watches this video will see that we have a strong belief on the topic, which is of the LGBTQ community. 

“Our campaign is simple, ‘if you can play, you can play.’  We believe as a National SAAC that your sexual orientation or sexual identity should not impact your student-athlete experience. We hope that you are comfortable with who you are and we will be there, by your side, to support you.”    

Although the role of being the conference’s NCAA SAAC representative has kept him busy, Passalacqua has no regrets in taking it on, describing the overall experience as being “life changing.” 

“I have had this wonderful opportunity now for two years and I am grateful for it every day,” explained Passalacqua.  “I’ve had the greatest pleasure meeting new people, not just on the committee, but in the association as a whole. Most of the people I have met are able to open up my understanding of the NCAA to more than what I thought it ever was.”  

NEAC assistant commissioner Eugenio Mercurio, who also serves as the conference’s SAAC advisor, noted that Passalacqua’s efforts thus far have been proof that he was the right fit for the important role. 

“Connor has done an exceptional job in fulfilling his role as the conference’s National SAAC representative,” Mercurio said.  “He is active not only on the national stage but also at the conference level with his efforts in keeping all of the NEAC SAAC advisors informed on current issues.  His expanding roles at the national level also speak to his hard work and commitment to the position.  I have no doubt that he will continue to excel in his duties at all levels.”   

The North Eastern Athletic Conference has fourteen NCAA Division III member institutions which include: Bryn Athyn College, Cazenovia College, College of St. Elizabeth, Gallaudet University, Keuka College, Lancaster Bible College, Pennsylvania College of Technology, Pennsylvania State University - Abington, Pennsylvania State University - Berks, SUNY Cobleskill, SUNY Institute of Technology, SUNY Morrisville State College, Wells College, and Wilson College.  Associate members are: Cedar Crest College (W Swimming), D’Youville College (M Volleyball), Hilbert College (M Lacrosse & M Volleyball), Medaille College (M&W Lacrosse & M Volleyball), Penn State Altoona (M Volleyball) and Rutgers University - Camden (M Golf).  The North Eastern Athletic Conference has partnered with the North Atlantic Conference in the sports of men’s and women’s tennis.