In 2020, The SAAC Received Unanimous Approval For Legislation That Required DI Schools To Make Election Day A Complete Day Off From Any Required Competitions, Practice Or Meetings. This Spurred Them On To Create An Initiative To Bring This Opportunity To Everyone – Not Just Athletes.
Published February 22, 2021
In 2020, NCAA Division I Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) proposed and got unanimous approval for legislation that required DI schools make Election Day a complete off day from any form of required competition, practices, and meetings.
The new rule applies to the first Tuesday after Nov. 1 every year, not only federal elections. This is to allow student-athletes the opportunity to vote, free from athletic obligations, as well as take time for other civic engagement activities such as volunteering at the polls or sharing their beliefs in the importance of being an involved citizen.
This spurred the Yale SAAC representative, who is from there the representative to the Ivy League and to the NCAA, and Yale’s committee to create an initiative to bring this opportunity to everyone—not just athletes.
The initiative is currently being approached through letter writing from the individual schools’ councils to their respective state senators and house representatives.
Citing Pew Research on the 2016 election, only 56% of the those eligible to vote did so, and 14% of those who did not said it was due to a conflicting schedule. Pew also ranks the US 26th in voter turnout for modern democracies.
Out of the 36 countries in the Organization for Economic Development, the US is one of only seven that does not have Election Day on a weekend or national holiday.
The idea of making Election Day a national holiday follows the same lines of the NCAA’s Civic Engagement Day that was observed for the first time for the 2020 election—to give more people the opportunity to vote. While a few states have a holiday for state workers, this is still a small portion compared to the rest of the US as well as the other workers in those states.
The Tennessee State Schools that have a SAAC include UT Knoxville, UT Chattanooga, Memphis, Tennessee Tech, King, and many more in all three NCAA divisions.
Each conference has a committee that is comprised of chapter leaders from member schools, and one representative from the conference reports to the NCAA.
For example, Liz Wood, from UT Chattanooga women’s basketball is the UTC SAAC Chair as well as the Southern Conference Chair to the NCAA, participating in monthly meetings and various conventions. Other Tennessee athletes that represent their conference to the NCAA are Imani Tayor (TN State track and field, Ohio Valley Conference) and Ahmed Amaar (Lipscomb track and field, ASun Conference).
The mission of the NCAA Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee is to enhance the total student-athlete experience by protecting athletes’ well-being, creating a positive student-athlete image and an inclusive environment, and promoting their engagement at the national, conference, and local levels.
The structure of SAAC all the way from the national level to individual school level parallels a democratic government structure, giving student athletes experience working with various institutional levels to make an impact in the things they are most involved with as well as connect with their communities on a larger scale, both inside and outside of sport.
SAAC was established at the 1989 NCAA convention to review NCAA activities and acquire student-athlete input on proposed legislation. In 1997, It split into three divisions, corresponding with the athletic divisions I, II, and III.