Governor Says College Football Players Would Be Welcome in Florida

If college football is canceled in other parts of the country because of the coronavirus pandemic, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis says the players are welcome in his state.

In a round-table discussion on college athletics held at Florida State University’s Albert J. Dunlap Athletic Training Facility, DeSantis said he would consider poaching players from conferences that have decided to call off the season.

“I asked President Thrasher and Coach about, ‘Hey if some of these other conferences shut down, can we welcome their players to the state of Florida?’” DeSantis said, referring to John Thrasher, the head of the university system, who participated in the event. Head coach Mike Norvell was also there.

“I’m not exactly sure how the NCAA rules work on that, but I can tell you, if there’s a way, we want you guys to be able to play as well.”

The college football season has become another political flashpoint of the pandemic that has raced through the South and turned Florida into one of those hit hardest by the coronavirus. On Tuesday, Florida reported 276 new Covid-19 deaths, a state record.

But with students coming back to colleges and universities, schools are eager for the return of football, a cash cow and cherished southern rite, despite risks posed to players and large crowds in the stands. Monday, President Donald Trump weighed in with a three-word Tweet: “Play College Football!”

DeSantis, a Republican Trump ally criticized for his response to the virus and minimizing the risk to his state, said he’s supportive of football returning to Florida in the fall, even as other schools and leagues around the country decide to forgo the season or keep students off campus entirely.

The Big Ten, which includes football powerhouses like Michigan and Ohio State, announced on Tuesday it will not play football this fall and is attempting to hold a season in the spring instead. Over the weekend, the Mid-American Conference became the first in the FBS, or Football Bowl Subdivision, to scrap its 2020 season. Smaller leagues including the Ivy League and the Patriot League postponed football and other fall sports earlier this summer.

Several of college football’s biggest powers stand to lose more than $100 million each from a canceled season, according to data compiled by Ryan Brewer, an associate professor of finance at Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus.

David Coburn, the Florida State athletic director, said precautions will be in place to keep the athletes safe, including temperature checks and bi-weekly Covid-19 screenings once the season starts. Florida State is expected to play its first game on September 12.

DeSantis said that student athletes would be at a greater risk for coronavirus if sports were scuttled.

“Let’s just be clear, you don’t have sports, it ain’t like there’s not going to be activities going on with college students,” DeSantis said. “Just from a corona perspective you would want the the kids in the athletic program.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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