For decades the first Tuesday in November isn’t just Election Day in the United States: It’s also
opening day (ed: see below) or NCAA Division I men’s basketball. Last year on November 5th, there were 148 games played amongst the 353 teams that play college basketball at the highest level.
Edit 3:26 pm: The Senior Associate AD at Wisconsin-Milwaukee Adam Schemm, who did an outstanding job as marketing director at South Florida, tweets that wouldn’t matter this year as opening day was been pushed back until November 10th for this season prior to this.
But that will change this year, as today the NCAA has said Election Day should be “a day off from athletics activity” for the first time thanks to a new rule included in a statement released from the NCAA Board of Governors today.
President Mark Emmert and the NCAA Board of Governors recognize the important role social engagement has on driving positive societal change. 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. Further, we encourage all member schools to assist students in registering to vote in the upcoming national election and designate November 3, 2020 as a day off from athletics activity so athletes can vote and participate in their ultimate responsibility as citizens.
This change won’t just impact what happens on the fields and courts. As the NCAA loves to remind you in their campaign ads that run during your favorite games, there are over 460,000 student-athletes in the NCAA. Some aren’t American citizens, but the overwhelming majority are, and usually have the choice whether to vote at their campus of residence or their home address in most cases.
Registering and turning out this block of voters could make a difference in the 2020 elections results across the country in close races if schools do provide resources to help student-athlete’s vote. A bit over 136,000,000 people voted in the 2016 Presidential election. Any group that makes up almost half of 1% of that including coaches, assistant coaches, and staff that likely take advantage of the day off and registration efforts too, will need to be addressed by politicians.
This policy likely pushes back games on Opening Night in 2020, but will have an impact going forward. But it’s one of the more substantive changes we’ve seen in major sports as part of the ongoing debate nationally around race and policing.