NCAA Division I athletes granted annual day off to vote, participate in civic activities

The NCAA Division I Council on Wednesday approved a measure that will prohibit Division I student-athletes from practicing and competing on the first Tuesday after Nov. 1 every year to allow them to vote in elections or participate in other civic activities.

The Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee proposed the legislation, and it will start with the upcoming Election Day on Nov. 3. It was the first time the SAAC proposed legislation since Division I governance was changed in 2014 to give student-athletes voting rights at every level of decision-making, according to the NCAA.

Several Division I schools, including Georgia Tech, Gonzaga, Oregon and USC, already said they were canceling athletics activities on Nov. 3 to allow their student-athletes to vote.

"The Council unanimously supports this important piece of legislation," M. Grace Calhoun, chairperson of the Division I Council and athletic director at Pennsylvania, said in a statement. "Coming from Division I SAAC, we know it represents the voice of student-athletes across the country who continue to express a desire to increase their civic engagement at local, state and federal levels. We look forward to seeing student-athletes use this opportunity as a way to create positive change."

The Division I Council said that it would provide membership schools with educational tools and that the legislation mirrors the SAAC's priorities for increasing diversity and inclusion education through civic engagement.

"As Division I SAAC representatives and as student-athletes across the country, we are so excited to see this proposal become legislation," said Ethan Good, SAAC chairman and a former basketball player at Bowling Green. "By providing this day dedicated to civic engagement each year, we are making a clear distinction that our American student-athletes will always be citizens before they are athletes. The student-athlete voice continues to grow louder and louder every year, and we can see that through this action."

In a statement in June, after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the NCAA encouraged its members to assist student-athletes in registering to vote and giving them Nov. 3 off to vote "and participate in their ultimate responsibility as citizens."

"President Mark Emmert and the NCAA Board of Governors recognize the important role social engagement has on driving positive societal change," the NCAA statement said. "The recent demonstrations following the tragic killing of George Floyd showed the world the power of protest and student-athletes across the country were at the center of that movement. We commend NCAA student-athletes who recognized the need for change and took action though safe and peaceful protest. We encourage students to continue to make their voices heard on these important issues, engage in community activism and exercise their Constitutional rights."