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Pac-12 announces student-athlete representatives in autonomy structure

San Francisco – The Pac-12 Conference office announced today that Kene Orjioke of UCLA, McKenzie Fechter of WASHINGTON, and Taylor James of CALIFORNIA will represent the Conference in the NCAA’s new Division I autonomy structure. 

In August 2014, the NCAA Division I Board of Directors voted to restructure Division I governance such that student-athletes have an active, decision-making voice as part of the new autonomy structure. The first-ever autonomy meeting will be held at the NCAA Convention on Saturday, Jan. 17.

Three Pac-12 student-athletes and 12 other student-athlete representatives will join representatives from each of the 65 member schools of the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC to discuss and vote on a series of proposals designed to improve the student-athlete experience. The proposals focus on issues such as cost of attendance, loss-of-value insurance, scholarship renewal, and concussion safety.

Orjioke, James, and Fechter were selected by their peers on the Pac-12 Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) to represent the nearly 7,000 student-athletes in the Pac-12. Each of them has served as a chair of the Pac-12 SAAC during one of the last three semesters.

“I’m excited to see the influence and perspective that these informed student-athlete leaders will bring to the governance table,” said Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott. “The student-athlete voice deserves prominence in our collective decision-making process and I am proud of the representatives from the Pac-12 who are taking part in this historic moment in collegiate athletics.”

The Pac-12 is committed to supporting the student-athlete voice at all levels of governance. In October 2014, the presidents and chancellors of the Conference’s 12 member universities granted increased student-athlete representation in conference governance as part of a sweeping student-athlete reform package.

Orjioke, a redshirt sophomore football student-athlete at UCLA majoring in political science, intends to pursue interests in investment banking, private equity, and commercial real estate following his playing career.  Part of the Bruins’ linebacker core, Orjioke appeared in all 13 games of the 2013 season and in the first four games of 2014 before suffering an injury that forced him to miss the remainder of the season. Orjioke was elected as one of the three Pac-12 student-athlete representatives at the NCAA Convention by a vote of the Pac-12 SAAC in November of 2014.

“Everyone at UCLA is extremely proud of Kene,” said UCLA Director of Athletics Dan Guerrero. “I’m excited that the student-athlete has a very real voice as part of the new autonomy structure, and I know Kene will represent not only UCLA but all student-athletes well throughout this process.” 

Fechter is a senior gymnastics student-athlete at Washington majoring in communications. She started her career as a collegiate gymnast in 2012 and she became the top freshman and all-arounder for Washington that year. She is a SAAC officer on Washington’s campus and was elected Chair of the Pac-12 SAAC in the spring of 2014.

“I am excited for McKenzie and her peers in the conference, and thrilled for her to be gaining such valuable experience,” said Washington Director of Athletics Scott Woodward. “Empowering student-athletes with a voice to help shape their collegiate experiences is a big step toward a bright future for college athletics.”

James is a junior women’s rowing student-athlete. She started her athletic career as a Golden Bear on the women’s lacrosse team but switched over to rowing. James is president of GBAC, the Golden Bear Athletic Council on California’s campus, and was elected Co-Chair of the Pac-12 SAAC in the fall of 2013.

Mike Williams, Director of Athletics at the University of California, Berkeley, added, “The landscape of college athletics is shifting and we are fortunate to have student-athletes like Taylor James participating in governance at such an important time. Having such an engaged member of our student-athlete community involved in this process is incredibly valuable and all of us at the University of California, Berkeley are extremely proud of Taylor.”

ABOUT THE PAC-12 CONFERENCE
The Conference has a tradition as the “Conference of Champions,” leading the nation in NCAA Championships in 48 of the last 54 years, with 471 NCAA team titles overall. The Conference comprises 12 leading U.S. universities: The University of Arizona, Arizona State University, the University of California-Berkeley, the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), the University of Colorado, the University of Oregon, Oregon State University, Stanford University, the University of Southern California, the University of Utah, the University of Washington and Washington State University.  For more information on the Conference’s programs, member institutions, and Commissioner Larry Scott, go to www.pac-12.com/conference.

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