The Florida-Florida State rivalry might not be dead this year, after all. At least not if Gov. Ron DeSantis gets his wish.
During a news conference in Jacksonville about the importance of sports, DeSantis brought up the Gators-Seminoles rivalry twice and said he “may be working” on something to make the matchup happen.
“I just want to say that, as the governor, I would like to see a way for that game to happen,” DeSantis said. “I think this is a very fluid situation, but it’s an epic rivalry.”
That epic rivalry was shelved last week when the SEC adopted a 10-game, conference-only schedule that would prohibit the Gators from playing FSU, an ACC team.
“If you’re able to play, you’re able to play,” DeSantis said. “Let’s give the fans what they want. We may be working on that over the next couple weeks.”
DeSantis followed up on that point at the end of the news conference.
“I am going to see if we can make sure that rivalry game continues,” he said. “I know it’s one that we all look forward to every year. I don’t have a dog in the fight, but it’s one that I want to see.
“And I think the Gators’ prospects look good. I think they played LSU better than any team did (last year, when LSU won the national title). Then I think we’ve got a new coach at Florida State. I think there’s some renewed optimism with the program there, as well.
“I just think it would be something that would be good for the state, if we could get it done. We’re going to work to see what the options would be for that.”
It’s unclear what those options might be. UF athletic director Scott Stricklin was asked last week about the state legislature potentially getting involved and said the Gators were “bound” by the rules of the SEC.
“So as difficult as that is for us all in the state of Florida to wrap our minds around, that’s where we’re going to be for the fall of 2020,” Stricklin said.
One potential option would be if the two teams could meet in a bowl game. The Gator Bowl in Jacksonville would seem to be the most likely candidate, based on existing bowl-conference agreements.
A push from Gov. LeRoy Collins helped start the rivalry in the 1950s. The two teams have met annually since 1958.
The Tampa Bay Times asked DeSantis’ office last week whether he would get involved to try to rescue the game. We did not receive a response.