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SAAC seeks to bring Willamette Community together

Ernie Samora

Contributing writer

Ryan Johns. From the Willamette Athletics Website

“We want to bring the Willamette community together and make it fun to be a Bearcat.” Ryan Johns (‘24), president of the Northwest Conference Student Athlete Committee, co-president of the Willamette Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and offensive lineman on Willamette Football, is hoping to make Willamette Athletics and the Bearcat community better than ever.

The Covid-19 pandemic made folks understandably concerned about going to large public events, including live sporting events. Now that the campus is able to better manage Covid on-campus and restrictions are beginning to return to the pre-pandemic norm, SAAC is trying to get more people at the games and build the Bearcat community.

SAAC is a committee of two students from each sports team that meet biweekly to discuss service events, events to bring campus together, and how to foster an engaged student athlete population. SAAC’s motivation is rooted in Willamette’s motto: “Non nobis solum nati sumus,” or “Not unto ourselves alone are we born.” Their ultimate goal is to build and better our community through athletics, bring athletes into the community, bring community into athletics and ultimately build leaders.

One challenge SAAC has experienced is a disconnect between student athletes and non-athletes. “People don’t know when the games are. They don’t know how to get there,” Johns said. Some students are not informed of when athletic events are occurring, making it difficult to get them in the stands. In order to offset this, SAAC provides a poster with the dates of all the on-campus home games in the athletic center on the second floor of Sparks. Johns also said that the Bearcat app is a great way to keep track of when and where home games are taking place.

Even with the disconnect, Johns said the attendance of games is on the rise. There are more people, both students and folks from the broader Salem community, at the games than there have been the previous two years. Before classes began, the football team volunteered at a local youth football jamboree. Now, Johns has seen several of the Salem locals they met attending the football games. By bringing athletics into the community, Willamette Football expanded and strengthened the Bearcat community.

Considering the class of 2026 is the largest freshman class in seven years and Covid is more manageable on campus, there is an opportunity to get more students in the stands than we have had since the start of the pandemic.

In the future, SAAC will be arranging several themed games, such as a “pink out” or a Halloween event. Events and themes will be listed on the Bearcats app. Potential events coming in the future include tailgates, barbeques, and maybe even food trucks. If you have anything you think would make the sport games more fun, reach out to a SAAC representative to let them know!

When asked for any final comments, Johns had this to say: “Go Bearcats!”

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