Gov. Ron DeSantis called Tuesday for the college football season in Florida to proceed this fall, arguing that colleges can provide a safe environment for athletes to play notwithstanding fears among some student athletes who are opting out due to COVID-19.
“We are here to say, from the state of Florida, we want you guys to play,” DeSantis said during a roundtable discussion about collegiate athletics at Florida State University.
“This is integral to young men and women here at Florida State and across the state of Florida.”
DeSantis warned of the harm to college athletes if sports are suspended. “To take away that season would be short-circuiting the dreams that so many of our student athletes have worked for, in many cases, their whole lives,” he said.
“This is like a family, the people that you play with, the coaches, the trainers, administrators, they’re looking out for these kids. They want everybody to be safe,” said the governor, who played baseball while a Yale undergraduate.
DeSantis was joined by FSU President John Thrasher, athletic director David Coburn, football coach Mike Norvell, and two FSU football players who expressed their desire to play.
Those players included defensive end Joshua Kaindoh and wide receiver Keyshawn Helton. Kaindoh said he didn’t play last year due to an injury and that to take this season away would be “heartbreaking.”
Thrasher said that the university’s football players feel safe to play because of the protocols in place and that FSU’s first football game will be on Sept. 12 against Georgia Tech.
“We know that we can do it safely,” Thrasher said. “We think it’s in the best interest of our student athletes.”
Protocols for football players include completing a questionnaire about COVID symptoms, temperature checks, weekly testing, wearing face masks, and social distancing during team meetings, Coburn said.
“We are very comfortable that we’ve done what the medical folks have advised,” Coburn said.
Norvell echoed that players want to be out on the football field, saying, “These guys want to play” and “they know the protocols are safe.”
“I worry if that’s taken away from them, not only what is that going to do to them mentally and having to experience more challenges, more setbacks, more things that are taken away from them. They are here voluntarily,” he added.
The Florida Phoenix previously reported that numerous college football players nationwide want to opt out this season including FSU defensive end Jamarcus Chatman. Arizona’s quarterback and Vanderbilt’s kicker said they won’t play either.
And two FSU players have decided not to play this season, coach Norvell said during the roundtable discussion. “We are fully supporting them,” he said. “It is a choice.”
The identity of those FSU players wasn’t disclosed, and FSU’s communications staff has yet to respond to a request for comment from the Phoenix.
FSU’s football team plays in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), which announced last week that its 2020 football schedule will begin Sept. 10.
“All 15 conference schools will play an 11-game schedule, with 10 games against ACC opponents and one versus a non-conference program,” ACC said in a press release.
Another conference, the Pac-12, announced Tuesday that its fall football season is cancelled through the end of 2020 because of concerns over the coronavirus.. The Big Ten made the same announcement earlier Tuesday, according to the Los Angeles Times.
DeSantis responded to a question from a reporter at the roundtable about whether he’d take “executive action to do the FSU and University of Florida game.”
“That obviously would need to be done in collaboration,” he said. “I know the players want to play the game, I know the coaches want to play the game, everyone will want to do it. It’s more of just logistics,” he said.