The Student-Athlete Advisory Committee has revamped its annual sports banquet. A notable speaker and a new venue will headline the event on Monday night.
For the first time, the ACU athletics banquet will be in the Hunter Welcome Center rather than the Teague Special Events Center. The banquet will also feature a speaker from outside the department. Mikado Hinson, the director of player development at Texas A&M University and former chaplain for the Houston Rockets, will be the keynote speaker.
“With the department moving to Div. I, it was time to bring the banquet up to that standard as well,” said Kyle Karnei, president of SAAC and golf team member. “There should be a certain level of professionalism that is exemplified in how we conduct events such as these, and I think we will have accomplished that this year.”
The plan to overhaul the banquet has been in the works since last year, said Karnei, sophomore accounting major from McGregor. After the conclusion of last year’s event, the SAAC officer team began brainstorming better ways to celebrate the end of the athletic year. The search for a speaker began in August as did an alternate venue to the usual Teague set up.
“Lee De Leon has been crucial in improving every aspect of how business is done in the athletic department,” Karnei said. “I think that fact alone is evident when you look at something like the athletic banquet.”
Landing Hinson as a speaker was entirely the work of De Leon. The two worked together at the University of Houston from 2006 to 2008. Hinson has spent his entire career around athletes at every level and began his career working as the chaplain for the Houston Rockets and UH. He transitioned in 2010 to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes before taking his current job with Texas A&M University.
The new speaker and venue are not the only changes to the athletic banquet. Now, athletes will be allowed to bring dates much like a social club formal. A department-wide vote led to the decision to invite guests.
“I think it is a great idea to allow athletes to bring dates,” said Natalie Throneberry, sophomore kinesiology major from McKinney and soccer player. “This way, we can show off the athletic department to non-athletes, celebrate the end of the year with friends and hopefully build more support for our teams.”
Karnei said the decision to bring dates ultimately came down to a public relations decision. The vote amongst the athletes was split nearly 50-50.
“It was a tight decision, but we are going to try it for a year and see how it goes,” Karnei said. “In the end, we just want people to come out to our games. If bringing dates to our banquet somehow bridges the gap between student-athletes and non-athletes, then SAAC has served its purpose.”