Georgia Tech teams commit to give athletes day off on Election Day

November 30, 2019 Atlanta - Georgia Tech players react after they recovered a fumble scores a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday, November 30, 2019. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

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November 30, 2019 Atlanta - Georgia Tech players react after they recovered a fumble scores a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday, November 30, 2019. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Georgia Tech took a concrete step Thursday in its response to the social unrest caused by the death of George Floyd, as nine varsity teams pledged not to hold any mandatory activities on the Nov. 3 election day to encourage team members and staff to vote.

The nine are men’s and women’s basketball, football, volleyball, men’s swimming and diving, men’s and women’s tennis and men’s and women’s indoor track and field. The women’s swimming and diving team has a competition scheduled for Nov. 3, but is working to reschedule.

The plan to free the day for athletes to vote was hatched by men’s associate head coach Eric Reveno following a Monday video conference call with the Yellow Jackets team in which players, coaches and staff met to share their thoughts sparked by Floyd’s death and the ensuing protests. The idea was championed by men’s coach Josh Pastner and women’s coach Nell Fortner.

Reveno is aiming to get the NCAA to pass a similar measure.

"I am very proud of our student-athletes and coaches for identifying a great way that they can take action to make a difference in our communities and society," Tech athletic director Todd Stansbury said in a statement. "As part of our mission of developing young people in all aspects of their lives, I feel that it is our responsibility to provide student-athletes with an environment that promotes civic duty."

NCAA rules mandate that athletes have one day off per week during their playing seasons in which they are not required to take part in team-related activities including games, practices, team meetings and weightlifting sessions.

The football team will play Duke at home the following Saturday, Nov. 7. Last season, coach Geoff Collins normally gave the team Monday off.

“My hope is that this will encourage our entire organization to participate in the most important part of citizenship in our democracy,” Collins said in a statement.”

The volleyball team has two matches the following weekend and the swimming and diving teams have two meets scheduled for that week.

Statements from Tech coaches:• "This is a time to come together and educate ourselves, learn and vote. I am proud of the American people for coming together and voicing what we believe is right. We need to do better as a nation, and voting is one of the most powerful ways for our voices to be heard. I am all for our team being able to have the opportunity to make a difference on November 3." - volleyball coach Michelle Collier

• "In light of recent events, our team has had very real and meaningful conversations about how we can make a difference in our communities and in our nation. One of those ways is to take a day that we would normally dedicate to preparing for our upcoming game and, instead, taking Tuesday, November 3 off to ensure that our student-athletes and staff have the opportunity to exercise their right to vote. My hope is that this will encourage our entire organization to participate in the most important part of citizenship in our democracy." - football coach Geoff Collins

• "As a track and field staff, we are fully supportive of the initiative to make sure our student-athletes have an opportunity to vote and have their voices heard on November 3. The opportunity to vote your conscience is one of our fundamental rights as citizens. While there are many ways to have an impact, very likely none are more important that at the ballot box." - women's track and field coach Alan Drosky 

• "I lead a group of strong, young women, student-athletes from all backgrounds and nationalities. My passion is to teach, encourage and support each one of them. To my African-American players and staff, I stand behind you and beside you as our nation continues to find its way for total equality for African-American people. On November 3, 2020, all of our voices can be heard and I will encourage my student-athletes to be heard!" - women's basketball coach Nell Fortner

• "We will pledge to give our team – student-athletes and coaches – the day off on November 3, 2020, so they have the opportunity to exercise their constitutional right to go vote, and let their voices be heard. I will be voting on November 3 and encourage everyone to go vote." - women's tennis coach Rodney Harmon 

• "I'm thrilled to be able to join with our coaches at Georgia Tech and pledge to give our swimmers and divers Election Day off to go vote. Voting is still our most valued responsibility, and we as coaches can easily emphasize the importance of our student-athletes' voices by supporting their right to vote and encouraging them to be heard." - swimming and diving coach Courtney Shealy Hart

• "The events of the past week have given us all an opportunity to educate ourselves about social issues that face us, the way we treat each other as human beings and what we can and should do to back up our words. All of us must exercise our right to vote. It may seem like a small thing while all this is going on around us, but it is so important to do on all levels, and a basic part of being a good citizen. Creating a day off from athletic activities is a great way to encourage our student-athletes to exercise that right." - men's basketball coach Josh Pastner

• "We support having a day off from athletic activities on Election Day this year. Whether it be by voting on Election Day, voting early or filling out an absentee ballot since some of our student-athletes are from other states, we will encourage our team members to fulfill their civic duty and make their voices heard as part of the voting process. Our goal is to encourage them in their roles as athletes, scholars and responsible citizens." - men's tennis coach Kenny Thorne