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Florida Gators receiver Riley Cooper will play football then sign with Texas Rangers

GAINESVILLE — Calling it one of the toughest decisions he has ever had to make, wide receiver Riley Cooper has decided to return to Florida for his senior season, but he will also sign a professional baseball contract.

Cooper, a native of Clearwater, agreed in principle to a contract with the Texas Rangers, who drafted him in the 25th round in June. It was the second time he had been drafted; he was taken in the 15th round by the Philadelphia Phillies out of high school in 2006, but chose to play football.

"It was a tough decision, one of the hardest I've ever had to make, but I'm excited about being part of the Texas Rangers organization and coming back and playing football for my final season," Cooper said in a statement. "I'm looking forward to being around my Florida teammates and our Gator coaching staff. We have something special going on in Gainesville and I want to be a part of that."

Under NCAA rules, an athlete may be a professional in one sport, but maintain eligibility in another.

Cooper is the only returning starter at receiver for the Gators. He had 12 starts last season, with 18.8 yards per reception.

"We are excited to have Riley back," coach Urban Meyer said. "He will be counted on heavily to be one of our go-to receivers. I've said numerous times during the offseason that we need someone to step up with the departure of Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy. We haven't had someone step up yet and Riley can certainly be someone that does."

ALABAMA: Coach Nick Saban's charitable organization awarded more than $300,000 to local and state charities at the Nick's Kids Luncheon, held at Tuscaloosa's Bryant-Denny Stadium.

TENNESSEE: Though not wearing pads or initiating contact, the Volunteers held a grueling, hot three-hour practice to kick off their first fall under new coach Lane Kiffin. "I just don't know another way to do it," said Kiffin, who is joined on the staff by his father, former Bucs defensive coordinator Monte. "I just think that's how you build a team if it's going to be physical, if it's going to be able to run the ball and going to be able to play such a tough schedule."

MEN'S BASKETBALL: Arizona, Cincinnati, Colorado, Gonzaga, Maryland, Vanderbilt and Wisconsin will join host Chaminade in the field for the Maui Invitational, Nov. 23-25 in Lahaina, Hawaii.

Information from Times wires was used in this report. Antonya English can be reached at english@sptimes.com

Florida Gators receiver Riley Cooper will play football then sign with Texas Rangers 08/04/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 4, 2009 11:14pm]

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