Canisius athletes head voter registration push

For junior Lexi Agee and senior Turner Dirrigl, getting Canisius athletes to vote is a very important cause.

Turner Dirrigl was elected the MAAC SAAC chair last April. (Canisius athletics/GoGriffs)

It’s no secret that there has been a push to get people registered to vote for November’s presidential election, and that has happened at Canisius and within the MAAC.

Turner Dirrigl and Lexi Agee have been at the forefront of getting student-athletes at Canisius registered to vote. Dirrigl, a cross country runner at Canisius, is the MAAC SAAC (student-athlete advisory committee) chair. Agee, a member of the swim and dive team, is the chair of the Canisius sect of the program. They have worked together the past handful of months to get student-athletes at Canisius and the MAAC as a whole to register to vote.

They hit their goal at Canisius last Friday as it was announced that all (#) eligible Canisius athletes are registered, becoming the third MAAC school to hit that mark, behind Siena and Fairfield.

“It was really exciting because we were pushing really hard to get everybody registered,” Agee said. “For me personally, my team is huge so it was a lot of nagging to get it done, but it was worth it.”

This has been a journey for the group that has been going since the spring. Dirrigl was elected the SAAC chair this past April and this has been a major goal of theirs.

“In response to everything that’s been going on, the activism, stuff like that, we wanted to make sure that one of the most effective means of change that people have, they have access to do. There’s a lot of barriers to voting, especially for student-athletes and we want to make sure we remove as many of those as possible. We had a great infrastructure already set in place to help get people to be registered through the SAAC system and so we thought we could use that system to capitalize and get people registered, it’d be an effective way to make social change,” Dirrigl said.

SAAC is described as a direct line of communication between student-athletes and the NCAA, a way for student-athletes to get their voices heard by administrators at the NCAA. As the chair for the MAAC, Dirrigl also has a seat on the national Division I SAAC board.

The MAAC SAAC board meets monthly where there is representation from each of the 11 institutions. The conversation of getting student-athletes registered to vote began in early June during the protests that were sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. They worked to get logos set up and details in place, then began working with each school to get their own plan on the ground. They also work with sports information directors within athletic departments to be able to have them help with resources, such as social media and community outreach.

Siena became the first MAAC school to hit the goal of 100% on September 24 and then Fairfield and Canisius followed last Friday with Fairfield edging out Canisius by about 20 minutes, Dirrigl said with a laugh.  

The MAAC was also ahead of the curve on mandating that the November 3 Election Day this year be a day off for all sports teams, becoming one of the first conferences to do so, in early July. The Division I council officially passed legislation for it on September 16.

This isn’t going to go by the wayside when the presidential election is over, though. Both Agee and Dirrigl hope that this will continue moving forward as freshmen and transfers come in.

“The goal for us is to not make this a one-year thing. We want to make sure we do this during non-presidential election years as well. Next year is going to be a lot easier because the only thing we have to worry about is freshmen and transfers, but we want to make sure we keep this going long term,” Dirrigl said.

Agee added, “This is something we will definitely continue.”

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