It’s Election Day: Why So Quiet in College Basketball?

Posted by Kenny Ocker on November 8th, 2016

Kenny Ocker is a longtime correspondent for Rush The Court based in the Pacific Northwest. This is his first (and hopefully last) foray into political journalism for the Independent Voice of College Basketball. You can follow him on Twitter @KennyOcker.

For many of the 5,000-plus college basketball players, today is the first presidential election in which they get to vote. Sure, there are some people with redshirt years or missions, the occasional foreign player and the odd senior who is just old enough to have voted while in high school. But for everybody else, congratulations! Your first vote is like picking between Duke and North Carolina in a National Championship game. Sure, both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have some fervent fans, but many people are slogging through this election wondering why anyone else – anyone! – couldn’t have won.

Bob Knight Has Been a Vocal Supporter of Donald Trump Throughout This Election Season

Bob Knight Has Been a Vocal Supporter of Donald Trump Throughout This Election Season

Even if none of the candidates makes you want to Rush the Court (synergy!), college basketball has been in the election news more than any other election since Princeton legend Bill Bradley‘s ill-fated quest for the 2000 Democratic nomination. All three legendary coaches from Indiana schools – Indiana’s Bob Knight, Notre Dame’s Digger Phelps and Purdue’s Gene Keady – lent their support to Trump on the stump, with the perpetually outspoken Knight taking on a significant role in the Midwest. Knight made headlines a few times, including his spectacular trolling of Michigan fans last week when he reminded the Wolverines’ faithful that he was 4-0 against them as a player in the early 1960s at Ohio StateIn the department of “people who have actually been on a sideline after the Bush administration,” a couple of coaches have made this year’s election a team activity. Towson head coach Pat Skerry made all of his players register to vote and file absentee ballots for their home states. North Carolina Central head coach LeVelle Moton bragged two weeks ago on Twitter that his whole team voted early.

It is interesting that given the importance of a presidential election – especially one without an incumbent – that player involvement in the discourse leading up to Election Day is pretty quiet. But there’s a few logical explanations for that. First, players are statistically more inclined to vote for Democrats given the twin demographics of robust minority participation in college basketball and youth, both fairly reliable indicators of political leanings (at least in our 5,000-plus-athlete sample size). Second, there are only two reasonable points of entry for players to join public discourse: team-administered media availability and social media. Schools are likely to be risk-averse and dissuade players from publicly entering the political sphere, and social media have a tendency to complicate things without the most welcoming audiences for such discussions (you can just hear the screams of “STICK TO SPORTS” echoing out). Lastly, student-athletes are at the mercy of their schools for their scholarship arrangements – and playing time – so it’s in their best interest to generally not rock the boat.

Lord almighty, I think we’ve hit the threshold for discussing politics here at RTC. On the bright side, the end of the election means one thing: College basketball season is just a couple more days away.

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