As college football teeters on the brink, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has an idea.
Play all the games in Florida.
DeSantis met with Florida State president John Thrasher on Tuesday for a discussion on athletics as the college football season is threatened with collapse in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Like he did at the outset of the pandemic with professional sports, DeSantis suggested after meeting with Thrasher that college football play out its season in Florida. The entire sport.
‘Not exactly sure how the NCAA rules work on that’
If college football conferences get shut down, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) suggests he would "welcome their players to the state of Florida." pic.twitter.com/B1j2YgjfMJ— The Recount (@therecount) August 11, 2020
“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 told reporters after the meeting. “Not exactly sure how the NCAA rules work on that. But I can tell ya. If there’s a way, we want you guys to be able to play as well.”
DeSantis courted pro sports in May
The invitation echoes an appeal DeSantis made in May to professional sports after leagues halted play amid the outset of the pandemic in the United States. DeSantis invited leagues to conduct their seasons in the sunshine state while vowing that “it can be done safely.”
“All these professional sports are going to be welcome in Florida,” DeSantis said on May 13. “That may not be the case in every other state in this country as we’ve seen. What I would tell commissioners of leagues is if you have a team in an area where they just won’t let ‘em operate, we’ll find a place for you here in the state of Florida.
“Because we think that it’s important, and we know that it can be done safely.”
At that point, UFC had already resumed in Jacksonville. Since then, MLS, the NBA and WNBA have resumed play in bubbles in Florida with safety measures to insulate participants from outside coronavirus exposure.
The precautions have so far proven effective and necessary as Florida experienced one of the planet’s worst COVID-19 outbreaks after DeSantis urged businesses to reopen and residents flocked to beaches and bars.
Florida’s COVID-19 disaster
At its July peak, Florida’s outbreak regularly saw 10,000 or more new confirmed COVID-19 daily cases. As of Tuesday, the state accounted for 542,792 of the nation’s 5.1 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and 8,553 of the country’s 164,101 deaths attributed to the coronavirus. The outbreak forced a second round of shutdowns in the state.
Florida remains one of the nation’s hotspots as DeSantis continues to court sports at all levels. Tuesday’s overture arrived a day after DeSantis supported the return of college football in general.
“These students work their whole lives to be able to get to this point and, you know, they shouldn't have their season taken away from them," DeSantis told reporters. "There's never anything you do in life that is entirely risk-free. I think the risks, in this case, to them are very low, but I think they can make that assessment for themselves.”
He’s also urging youth sports to return amid the pandemic, calling them “vitally important.”
Last week, DeSantis pushed for the Florida-Florida State rivalry game to be added to the schedule. At that point, the game that had been played for six decades was canceled as conferences reduced their schedules to focus on league play.
Conferences shutting down football
Since then, the entire college football season has faced more peril as conferences reckon with the realities of playing a collision sport amid a deadly, airborne pandemic.
The MAC and the MWC canceled all fall sports over the weekend, and the Big Ten postponed its season on Tuesday. The Pac-12 is expected to do the same. How the rest of the dominoes fall is yet to be seen.
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