After the meeting, DeSantis told reporters that he asked school president John Thrasher and football coach Mike Norvell, “Hey, if some of these other conferences shut down, can we welcome their players to the state of Florida?”
“Not exactly sure how the NCAA rules work on that,” the governor continued. “But I can tell you: If there’s a way, we want you guys to be able to play as well.”
Florida State’s conference, the ACC, suggested in a statement Tuesday that it is still on track to stage fall sports but had not made any final decisions. The commissioner of the SEC, which includes the University of Florida, issued a similar statement.
“Let me be just very succinct. … Our players want to play,” Thrasher told reporters after the discussion with DeSantis, which also included Norvell, Athletic Director David Coburn and two Seminoles players. “They want to play because they have been involved in this sport for many, many years. They think we have, as the governor said, the safe protocols in place. They think that we have the right atmosphere to go out and play football.”
DeSantis said he hoped the decisions elsewhere in college football could “provide an opportunity” to reinstate FSU’s annual rivalry game with Florida. The contest has been staged every year since 1958 but was temporarily shelved after the SEC decided last month to only play games within its conference this year.
“I’m totally supportive of making that [game] happen if there’s a way,” DeSantis said (via the Orlando Sentinel), “but I understand that these schedules are what they are and there’s only a limited amount of options at this point.”
The coronavirus has caused the deaths of at least 161,000 people in the United States, with DeSantis’s state on Tuesday recording its highest single-day death toll since the pandemic began. Florida has reported in excess of 542,000 coronavirus cases and more than 8,500 related deaths since March.
In a media session Tuesday after the Pac-12 announced its decision, conference officials said they were concerned about not only the continued spread of the coronavirus but also “emerging data about some health risks” for athletes.
The coronavirus has been linked to cardiovascular issues, possibly including myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, in some cases.
“We wanted to really give [a fall season] the best shot, but in the end we looked at the recent cardiac evidence,” University of Oregon President Michael H. Schill said during the media session.
Schill’s language was echoed by Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren, who said in a statement Tuesday, “As time progressed and after hours of discussion with our Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee, it became abundantly clear that there was too much uncertainty regarding potential medical risks to allow our student-athletes to compete this fall.”
Thrasher said Tuesday that the issue of myocarditis, which can cause chest pain and heart failure, “seemed to get a lot of attention nationally, and it caused a lot of the other conferences to say: ‘Let’s take a step back. Let’s review where we are.’ ” He said his school’s reaction was to “agree we needed to look at the medical aspects again just one more time to make sure our protocols, the other teams’ protocols are in place.”
The chair of the ACC medical advisory group said (via ESPN) that he thought established safety protocols could “mitigate” the risk of coronavirus to the point where the conference could “safely have two teams meet on the field.”
“You can’t tell me that running onto a football field is supposed to be a zero-risk environment,” added the chair, Duke University infectious-disease specialist Cameron Wolfe. “Look at all of the regular sporting injuries that we accept as a certain level of risk as part and parcel of football. Now the reality is that we have to accept a little bit of covid risk to be a part of that.”
DeSantis claimed Tuesday that canceling the fall football season, with no guarantee the sport would be played early next year, amounted to “short-circuiting the dreams that so many of our student-athletes have worked for, in many cases, their whole lives.”
“We’re here to say from the state of Florida, we want you guys to play,” the governor declared.
During the Pac-12 media session, Arizona State Athletic Director Ray Anderson was asked about the possibility of players in his conference getting lured away by schools planning to play this fall.
“Hey, have at it,” Anderson said he would tell such recruiters, expressing confidence that his players “appreciated” that the Pac-12 made its decision in their “best interest.”
While officials at Big Ten member Nebraska said Tuesday they were “disappointed” in the conference’s decision and hoped their team might still be able to play, Schill asserted that the Pac-12′s members schools were “unanimous” in voting to postpone sports to next year. He said he and his conference counterparts recognized the decision as “the morally correct thing to do.”