Summer 2015

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Photo by Stephen J. Carrera/Northwestern Athletics

A Voice for the Athletes

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Soccer captain represents Big Ten peers in governance structure.

Nandi Mehta says this is “a transformative time in college athletics.” The Big Ten has already pledged to guarantee all four-year athletic scholarships and provide improved medical insurance for student-athletes. The conference also agreed to address topics related to health and safety, time demands and comprehensive academic support.

Mehta, a junior co-captain on the women’s soccer team, is one of the Big Ten’s three representatives in the NCAA’s new autonomy governance structure. She can vote on proposed rule changes, giving thousands of Big Ten student-athletes a voice.

“We have to rethink our priorities,” Mehta says. “I think the new structure can help get the focus back to student first, athlete second.”

In August 2014 the NCAA Division I Board of Directors changed the legislative structure, allowing schools in the Big Ten and four other power conferences to change rules for themselves in specific areas. The legislative process includes the participation of three student-athlete representatives from each conference who will vote on rule changes.

Mehta, an economics and international studies major who won a 2014 NU For Life Kabiller Memorial Award for Excellence in Character, Commitment and Community, served as co-president of the Northwestern Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and was one of two Northwestern nominees to represent the conference in the new governance structure. She was selected by her peers to serve alongside former Minnesota football player Chris Hawthorne and Purdue men’s golf senior Ben-Marvin Egel.

Among other issues, Mehta says she will be interested in the success of the Big Ten’s proposed student-athlete stipends to cover daily living expenses, which are set to take effect in 2015–16. “It’ll be interesting to see if these numbers will be used for recruiting advantages,” she says. She’s also staunchly against the idea of freshman ineligibility in football and men’s basketball, especially if that concept were to spread to women’s soccer.