Tuesday was Election Day. The NCAA had decided that it would be a day off for college athletes in all three divisions.
That meant the University of Massachusetts football team had Tuesday off as it ramped up its preparations for Saturday’s road game at No. 15/16 Marshall.
Between registering to vote and having conversations with the team, the UMass coaching staff has led the team in what was called a healthy discussion.
“Our kids have been really good,” UMass head coach Walt Bell said. “I think the biggest thing is just doing everything we can to educate those guys on how to make choices that are important to them and what they believe in, and really just the decision-making process.”
The UMass football team is falling in line with the rest of Division I, after the NCAA’s Division I Council voted unanimously to allow student-athletes to have the first Tuesday after Nov. 1 off every year. That day is historically Election Day across America.
“The Council unanimously supports this important piece of legislation. 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,” said Council chair M. Grace Calhoun, athletics director at Pennsylvania, in a release from the NCAA. “We look forward to seeing student-athletes use this opportunity as a way to create positive change.”
The ruling came after the Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee proposed legislation that would provide a day every year that was “dedicated to increasing opportunities for Division I athletes to participate in civic engagement,” read a release from the NCAA.
That includes voting, and that is why the Minutemen were not on the practice field with only three days before they hop a charter for Huntington, West Virginia.
“That kind of goes back all the way to the summer, with kind of everything that transpired throughout the country. Obviously, our administration, our athletic department, our football program, we’ve been registered to vote at a 100 percent clip for a while now,” Bell said during a noontime Zoom conference with reporters on Tuesday. “The majority of our out-of-state kids voted by absentee. That’s been an on-going conversation we’ve kind of had on Thursdays and Fridays before football came back. We were doing some Government and Economics 101-type classes, voter education stuff throughout our staff. It’s an on-going conversation.”
One thing the Tuesday off day did not do, Bell said, was put the Minutemen behind in any way. They had a week to quarantine after the Oct. 17 trip to Georgia Southern. They have practiced for much of the previous week, heading into game week.
The calendar also made it easy for Bell and his staff to be up to speed come Nov. 3.
“We had a long time to prepare” for Election Day, Bell said. “It’s not the normal crunch of a game week. We were able to practice [Monday], so we met early in the morning to avoid academic conflicts. Monday is kind of a bigger day because that’s our typical day off. We met in the morning and practiced at 6 p.m. to avoid all academic conflicts. We kind of flipped days. We had a normal Sunday and then had Tuesday’s practice on Monday.
“We’ll get back to it on Wednesday.”