Looney Heads To Denver And SAAC Meeting

Just because D.J. Looney is excused from weekday workouts to visit Denver, it doesn't mean he is not laboring for the Bulldog football team. Or for that matter every athlete at Mississippi State as well as in the Southeastern Conference, in his appointed role as league representative on the NCAA's Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

"It's a big honor in my mind to represent this great place and then the SEC, which is the best conference in the country," Looney said today. "So I'm very flattered."

Flattered, and prepared to begin the special task he was selected for back in June by the SEC. His term runs through September 2011 when he is eligible for re-appointment. For now he is a rising third-year sophomore center for Mississippi State football, taking care of the usual summer obligations of July session classes and daily strength/conditioning workouts.

And, along with that, the additional duties that come with being an active part of the NCAA's governing structure. The SAAC meets regularly, either in-person or via phone, to provide input sought by the NCAA on a variety of matters. Looney said he's already participated in three conference calls this week alone, and before leaving Thursday he was to meet with assistant compliance director Steve Smith to go over a booklet provided by the NCAA for this year's meetings.

The July meeting in Denver is the first for the assembled leadership committee in 2009, with representatives from all the NCAA's member conferences. "Hopefully I know everything I need to know," Looney said. "I expect to be in a lot of meetings and hopefully it's a little interesting. I hope I get to see Denver a little bit, because I've never been. And just get acquainted with everybody and how everything works."

Speaking of work, there will be that. And if it won't involve the sort of sweat Looney and summer-squad teammates have endured lately, these student-athletes do have some details to sweat. Because Looney sees himself as speaking for all his peers across the country in things that ultimately matter on and off the field.

"It's a lot of legislation and by-laws, a lot of rules and stuff that we have to go through. I tell everybody that asks and doesn't know much about it, we're pretty much the bridge between the student-athletes and the administrators. We take the problems that we hear from our side on campus and take it and voice it to them."

And what sort of problem is foremost in the mind of today's college athletes? Looney doesn't hesitate getting right to the bottom-line, so to speak. "The number-one issue is money; find a way to get us more money. That's my biggest goal, to see what we can do about getting us more financial aid help because that's our biggest issue." As well as an issue that is sure to make college and athletic administrators uncomfortable. But that's the sort of reality that the SAAC is designated to debate, along with others.

"We're going to talk about rules, and a lot of things in other sports that might not be that big in football. Hours practiced, study hall, when seasons start, stuff like that. It varies from issue to issue."

Looney adds that while he is there to speak for the young men and women who wear uniforms and represent institutions he will be keeping an open attitude towards the folk he is speaking to. One ‘perk' of being on such a committee is getting an inside look at why college athletics is run the way it is, or isn't. He intends to take full advantage of this inside-opportunity.

"Because there will be a lot of AD's and top-notch NCAA officials. I think I will get a greater understanding of that side of it. I am interested to see how that works out. But I won't hesitate to express my views, I'll tell them how I feel."

Looney, a four-game participate and one-game starter in the 2008 season, goes into his third Mississippi State fall as the backup at center. He is a native of Birmingham, Ala., and a management major.

The committee has further meetings scheduled for November in Indianapolis, and at the 2010 NCAA Convention next spring in Atlanta.

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