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Niagara president to participate in NCAA athletics summit

Niagara University's president, the Rev. James J. Maher, is one of 53 college leaders who will participate in an NCAA Division I Strategic Summit to be held Aug. 4-5 in Indianapolis.

The purpose of the summit is a big-picture review of various aspects of Division I athletics.

"The student-athlete experience will be one of the areas I’ll focus on," Maher said on Wednesday at the news conference for Niagara's new women's basketball coach, Jada Pierce. "What’s been spoken about is how do we integrate the student experience into the student-athlete experience? For example, many times student-athletes don’t have opportunities to participate in regular student activities. They may not have opportunities do internships. They may not have opportunities to study abroad. They may not have opportunities to focus on things that are part of the staple of being a student."

Maher just began a four-year term as the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference's representative on the NCAA Presidential Advisory Group. The summit event will include selected presidents, athletic directors, faculty and student-athletes. Maher is one of 31 presidents participating.

"I think what I’ve been encouraged about is the NCAA is very serious about looking at helping the student-athletes," Maher said. "The overwhelming number are not going to the pros.

"The second area I’ll be focused on is the life balance related to the student-athlete experience," Maher said. "How can you take out some of the excess around the lives of student athletes and help create that balance between being a student-athlete and being a student? I’m excited about it going forward. We’ll have to see how it all goes, but it’s a great opportunity."

"Athletics can be what it really should be, which is a great teacher," Maher said. "How do you deal with people from different backgrounds? How do you handle losing? How do you handle adversity? Learning your role, all those kinds of things, are what's so valuable to the student-athlete."

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