On Sept. 28, Gonzaga’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) publicly announced its voter registration campaign, an effort which encourages Gonzaga student-athletes and staff to register to vote. An initial goal was set for 100% of “eligible student-athletes, coaches and department heads” to be registered by Oct. 2, ahead of the upcoming presidential election.
The campaign, which formally kicked off via Gonzaga SAAC social media, emphasized the commitment of SAAC to civic engagement. The post also expressed the desire of SAAC to aid student-athletes in inspiring positive change, and in using their vote to support “equality and progress for all.”
Emma Moon, the director of life skills development for Gonzaga Athletics, has been working alongside SAAC student officers to promote the effort.
These officers, who are student-athletes themselves, started by communicating with GU’s sport’s information directors and the creative marketing team to compile a plethora of online voting resources. They can be found on the SAAC website, and offer students technical information on how to vote, including details about processes like acquiring an absentee ballot.
There is also information on the website which encourages students to use their voice for good in all aspects of life.
In conjunction, the student officers have been meeting regularly with SAAC student-athlete representatives on each team to encourage voting, and receive feedback on how to best communicate.
Moon said she feels that peer-to-peer education is key in this campaign, and as a former GU student-athlete herself, she understands the unique leadership position that student-athletes have in the GU community.
“I feel that they are leaders, and a lot of people are looking around them for direction right now," Moon said.
The SAAC team has been working hard to pivot this direction toward something positive, and it hard work has paid off. While it has yet to see its desired goal of 100% student-athlete registration, the campaign has resulted in 13 of the 14 GU sports teams being completely registered thus far.
Moon said she is proud of what the campaign has accomplished and said that the student officers will continue to work until the athletic program sees complete voter registration across its staff members and GU’s 330 student-athletes.
For Mike Roth, GU’s director of athletics, the significance of the campaign is much bigger than Gonzaga.
Roth said he feels strongly that the campaign is a perfect way to encourage unity and respect, both on the GU campus and in the nation as a whole. However, Roth also noted that passion for civic engagement is nothing new for GU student-athletes.
In the past, student-athletes have taken part in a plethora of community service efforts, such as volunteering in assisted living homes and reading to grade-school children. Perhaps most notable is the yearly “trunk or treat” event put on by Gonzaga’s sports teams in conjunction with Catholic Charities. The event provides exciting Halloween activities for underprivileged children in the Spokane area.
But with the emergence of COVID-19, it has been difficult for student-athletes to find ways to give back.
Roth said he sees voting as an easy, contactless way for students to support their community. The campaign is completely voluntary and non-partisan, and it teaches the importance of being involved and using your platform to advocate for others.
The SAAC campaign was announced in the wake of the NCAA’s decision to prohibit colleges from organizing athletic events or practices on Nov. 3, when the United States presidential election will occur. This legislation, which was proposed by the Division I SAAC, will apply to every first Tuesday of November during election years going forward.
The new legislation has found supporters in a multitude of college athletes and coaches, including Mark Few, the head coach of men’s basketball at Gonzaga. Few has publicly encouraged players to vote and said that his team will not practice on election day.
"I think it's a great idea. It's just a step. One of many that needs to happen,” Few told ESPN staff writer Myron Medcalf.
One thing is clear, though, for Moon, Roth and the entire GU SAAC team: the emphasis on civic engagement (both on campus and off), is a sign of something good.
Roth feels that the overall message is simple.
“What students should take away is that you can make an impact on another individual by doing the right thing," Roth said.