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Penn State Receives Waiver to Practice on Election Day

The NCAA Division I Council in 2020 prohibited athletic activities on Election Day. Many schools received rule waivers this year.

Penn State is among the many college sports programs that received a waiver to practice on Election Day 2021, one year after the NCAA mandated it as an off day for sports to encourage civic engagement among athletes.

Penn State coach James Franklin said that Big Ten approved the waiver, allowing the program to maintain its regular practice schedule this week. Penn State is among many schools that have applied for waivers to practice Tuesday, according to Sports Illustrated.

"Obviously being engaged in our communities is something that’s very important to us, and we spent a lot of time discussing that and talking about that, and our captains felt like the best thing for us to do would be to keep our schedule the same," Franklin said at his weekly press conference Tuesday. "Especially when you’re talking about, most of our guys were going to be using absentee ballots, and they also had the ability obviously [to vote] all morning, with the voting centers open at 7 a.m."

The NCAA Division I Council in 2020 announced that athletes would not compete or practice on the "first Tuesday after Nov. 1 every year," or Election Day. The Division I Student-Advisory Council proposed the legislation to encourage athletes to vote and participate in community service, among other activities.

Sports Illustrated reported that perhaps as many as 100 FBS schools received waivers to compete and practice, with some of those waivers applying to entire conferences.

“Tuesday is a significant day for football,” Todd Berry, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association, told Sports Illustrated's Ross Dellenger. "Having coached and played, I think it’s a huge competitive disadvantage [to not practice that day]. If everybody is doing it, it’s not that big of a deal, but when some are doing it and others aren’t, it is unfair.”

Franklin said that Penn State initially planned to practice Monday, its scheduled day off, to comply with the legislation. On their weekly call Monday, the Big Ten coaches discussed the waiver and getting "everybody on the same page with what their expectations were," Franklin said.

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Franklin met with his team's Leadership Council and captains, who ultimately decided to maintain their regular schedule to prepare for Saturday's game at Maryland.

"With most of our guys using the absentee ballot, they felt like we wanted to keep our schedule the same and keep our off day Monday and practice today," Franklin said. "So we were able to get the waiver from the Big Ten. We’ll continue discussing these topics. We understand how important they are. Obviously last year there were a lot of conversations, so we’ll continue to build on that."

Penn State's schedule already had been disrupted following its 33-24 loss at Ohio State on Saturday. The team returned to State College at 6:30 a.m. Sunday, more than three hours after its scheduled arrival because of weather issues that forced the team plane to land in Harrisburg.

The team held its usual Sunday practice on a delayed schedule but eliminated the scrimmage for players who were not on the travel roster.

Penn State visits Maryland at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday.

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