Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is unclear why the NCAA is prohibiting teams from having practices on Election Day.
As part of a voting initiative across college sports, the NCAA made the decision in September that all college athletes should have the day off on Election Day in November starting in 2020. Clemson plays Notre Dame on Nov. 7, four days after the Nov. 3 Election Day this year.
“I didn’t really understand the day off thing,” Swinney said Wednesday after practice. “Most all of our guys have already been voting. There will be a few who go vote here but certainly always have time to go get that done. But that’s what they passed so that’s going to definitely change things for everybody. It’s not just for us though, it’s going to be for everybody.”
College football coaches are notoriously routine-oriented during game weeks and Swinney is no different. He said that Tuesdays are a “huge practice day” for the team before games with the team having Sundays off after games. That huge practice day will have to be adjusted ahead of one of Clemson’s biggest games of the year.
You can see why Swinney wouldn’t be a fan of breaking the routine. But it’s also easy to comprehend why the NCAA would want to make Election Day an off-day for athletes across the country. While Swinney does have a point that many college athletes will vote absentee or early in their home precincts ahead of the November elections, that early and absentee voting doesn’t detract from the overall point of the importance of voting.
Recognizing the significance of Election Day goes a long way to engaging young adults in the Democratic process. And most college athletes will be able to vote in a presidential election for the first time in 2020.
It also dovetails nicely with the voter registration efforts that schools and athletic departments have been engaging in over the summer in the midst of social and racial justice protests across the country. One of the most effective ways to elicit societal change is to vote.
“The [NCAA Division I Council] unanimously supports this important piece of legislation. Coming from Division I [Student-Athlete Advisory Committee], 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,” DI Council chair Grace Calhoun said in September of the NCAA’s decision to make Election Day an off day. “We look forward to seeing student-athletes use this opportunity as a way to create positive change.”
Before the NCAA’s decision, Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence said that the team would have ample time to vote on Nov. 3. Lawrence has been one of the more outspoken players on the topics of player rights and social issues and supported a statement from college football players early in September that called for Election Day to be an off day.
After tweeting the statement, Lawrence said that the team had met with Swinney and would still practice because “I don’t think that is the smartest thing to not practice on that day.” He also said that Swinney assured them that everyone would have enough time to vote.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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