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Football takes a step back for Arizona Wildcats on Election Day

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Arizona v Arizona State Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

In a normal game week, Tuesday is a very important day in terms of preparation for a college football team.

But 2020 has been no ordinary year, and this Tuesday specifically is unique in its own way. It’s Election Day, and thanks to legislation passed by the NCAA it’s a mandatory off day for all student-athletes.

That it just so happens to fall in the middle of Arizona’s first “game week” was an unfortunate coincidence that came with the Pac-12 deciding to make Nov. 7 the start of its abbreviated 2020 season.

Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin, for one, has no problem with the day off because he believes what it represents is much more important than what’s being pre-empted.

“In the grand scheme of things, we’re playing football, it’s a big deal, but guess what? For what you want, if you want certain things to happen in this country, then you need to vote,” Sumlin said Monday. “I think what is important is, we are part of a national movement for our student-athletes. As I said six months ago, the frustration of social injustice, the frustration of what’s going on, everything that’s going on in the country … hey look, vote. So we’re going to give you guys that day to figure that out. If you want something to happen, guess what, here’s a way to do it.

“I think our team has done a great job of voter education, and just looking at what you really want to do.”

The NCAA has made it so teams cannot do any “countable” activities on Tuesday, which includes practice, film study, team meetings or weight room workouts. Sumlin said that meant moving up the start of game-week preparations, having Monday’s practice on Sunday night and what would be Tuesday’s more-involved practice on Monday.

It’s worth noting that having Election Day off is more a symbolic gesture, since the vast majority of Arizona’s players won’t actually vote on Tuesday. Most are not registered to vote in the state and even fewer could go to the polls in Tucson.

“It’s important that people understand that … everybody’s not voting in Pima County, we’ve got guys (from) all over the place,” Sumlin said. “How that works, what that looks like, becomes extremely important to our young people.”

Senior tight end Bryce Wolma, who is from Michigan, said he mailed in his absentee ballot a while back. His civic duty already done, he can relax on Tuesday.

“This is obviously such an important election, making sure that they have the opportunity to go out there and vote and express their opinion,” he said. “This is actually my first time voting. Back in high school, I turned 18 a month after the 2016 election.”

Same goes for sophomore quarterback Grant Gunnell, who sent his ballot back to Texas.

“I’ve already voted so I’ll probably be spending all day watching film, taking notes on the defense,” Gunnell said. “That’s great that they’re giving us that time off to exercise our right. I think that’s a huge part of being a citizen in America, voting for what you believe is going to set this country up to be great and what it’s been in the past.”