Earlier this month, the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Board of Directors ratified a proposal to give its member institutions’ student-athletes, coaches and athletics staff a mandatory day off on each year’s General Election Date. The custom will go into instant effect for this year’s election on Tuesday, Nov. 3.
Last spring, said League Commissioner Steve Murray, each national governance staff of the NCAA’s three divisions endorsed the required day off as a way to promote citizenship and involvement in our country’s elections.
“We talked about it with our […] athletic administrators and then made the recommendation to the presidents that, from now on, the general election day—the Tuesday after the first Monday in November—we would have no accountable athletic-related activities in the conference going forward,” Murray said.
The off-day is not limited to the presidential election, Murray clarifies, but also for county elections.
“I think it’s also important for everyone to know that they are effective,” he said. “And that’s why I think, to me, it’s not just the presidential election. It’s also the people that are mayors of their towns. Or their county executives. Or the prothonotary office. And the county commissioners. Those kinds of offices, as well. It was important for me to not just distinguish presidential, because I don’t think it’s just merely a presidential nor a political statement […] This is a foundational instrument for our country.”
Being that the practice will be annual, Murray is curious how coaches will deal with the complication of adjusting their schedules in the future. Though he acknowledges the fact that not every single athlete will use the day to go visit the polls, Murray wants to show support the voting process.
“I think it’s important that we show, as part of an educational foundation, that citizenship is the most important thing that [our athletes] can participate in and learn more about,” Murray said.
Murray also stressed that voting should be encouraged at a grassroots level.
“If we can encourage it among the 8,000 or so student-athletes in our league, that’s maybe 8,000 more people that will have the opportunity to vote,” Murray said. “And then you keep multiplying that and it’s more of an increase of the participation process.”
Finally, Murray made sure to remind the league’s student-athletes that the situation surrounding COVID-19 is only temporary.
“It seems like it’s a lifetime for them, but it really is only a moment in time,” Murray said. “The most important thing that they’re ever going to have in college is not their wins and losses, but their relationships that they have with their teammates.”