(The Center Square) – The Big Ten and Pac-12 became the first Power 5 conferences to postpone their football seasons Tuesday, joining the Mid-American and Mountain West as Football Bowl Subdivision conferences to shelve fall sports amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
That’s a mistake, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday, imploring the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and Southeastern Conference (SEC) to stick with their plans to kick-off football seasons in September.
“We are here to say from the state of Florida, we want you guys to play,” DeSantis said to Florida State University football players at a collegiate athletics roundtable Tuesday at FSU’s Albert J. Dunlap Athletic Training Facility in Tallahassee.
In his push to reopen the state’s schools and colleges, DeSantis repeatedly has stressed the importance of high school and collegiate fall sports, saying canceling them will put student-athletes more at risk once they are no longer in “protective bubbles” provided by their teams.
“This is the safest place to be,” he said, noting weekly testing of players socially isolated from outsiders makes them safer than being on their own, which many would be – on campus and off – if the football season was postponed.
“We believe that discussions about short-circuiting the season are entirely misplaced, and I support Florida State continuing to play with the season, as I do all the sports throughout the state of Florida,” DeSantis said.
FSU President John Thrasher said the university has its own testing lab, can get players’ results in a day and the Seminoles are preparing to play their first game Sept. 12.
“What we frankly want to send is a message to some of the other schools that may be teetering on whether or not to play football,” Thrasher said. “We think it is in the best interests of our athletes for us to play football.”
“You talk about 18- to 22-year-olds just quarantining at their house, that’s unrealistic. There’s so many other things that guys are going to go do, which is not safe,” FSU wide receiver Keyshawn Helton said.
“Let’s be clear,” DeSantis said. “You don’t have sports, it ain’t like there’s not going to be activities going on with college students. In fact, it will be unsupervised, it will be unstructured. Just from a corona perspective, you would want the kids, I think, in the athletic program.”
Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis assured Florida’s 12 universities in a letter Monday their schools would be shielded from liability lawsuits.
“If you’re concerned about the legal liability of letting student-athletes compete, let’s talk,” Patronis wrote. “Next legislative session, I plan to pursue legislation to protect our businesses and nonprofits from legal firms who see the coronavirus as a business opportunity.”
FSU and the University of Miami are in the ACC. The University of Florida is in the SEC. Both are among college football’s Power 5 conferences, along with the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12.
Many conferences, including the ACC and SEC, had cancelled nonconference football games, nixing the annual rivalry showdown between FSU and UF, which DeSantis also has lobbied to get back on the schedule.
DeSantis made a similar overture regarding prep sports last week. The Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) Board of Directors reversed plans to begin fall sports as scheduled after Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the nation’s fourth-largest school district, threatened to leave the association if it did not delay the season.
The FHSAA board will discuss fall sports when it meets Thursday. Its Athletic Directors Advisory Committee (ADAC) has recommended football season begin with practices Nov. 30 practices and games Dec. 14.
This story was originally published by The Center Square.