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Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida State president: We want football this fall

The Seminoles hosted a discussion Tuesday, as Division I-A football teeters amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, seen here at an FSU basketball game in 2019, stressed Tuesday that he wants the state to have college football this fall.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, seen here at an FSU basketball game in 2019, stressed Tuesday that he wants the state to have college football this fall. [ MARK WALLHEISER | AP ]
Published Aug. 11, 2020
Updated Aug. 11, 2020

The college football landscape shook Tuesday when the Big Ten and Pac-12 both announced they were postponing their fall football seasons because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But so far, Florida is holding strong.

“Our coaches want to coach, and our players want to play,” Florida State president John Thrasher said Tuesday during a roundtable discussion led by Gov. Ron DeSantis. “It’s up to us to make sure the environment’s safe, and I think we’ve done that.

Related: College football’s chaos reveals a sport without leadership

“What we need to do now, though, is send a message to the rest of the schools out there that may be teetering about whether to play or not and let them know that a university like Florida State … is ready to play, and I think for the right reasons.”

Thrasher’s voice is significant; the decision of whether schools and conferences field a team or follow the Big Ten and Pac-12 to the sidelines will ultimately fall on him and other presidents and chancellors. And he’s adamant that FSU can play safely.

“We’re ready to play,” Thrasher said. “I plan on making sure that our friends in the Atlantic Coast Conference and frankly our friends in other conferences understand that student-athletes really do want to play football this year, and we ought to give them that opportunity.”

The ACC appeared to back him up Tuesday evening. The conference said it is pleased with how safety protocols have been handled so far and that it will “continue to follow our process that has been place for months and has served us well” while staying flexible as things change.

Translation: The league isn’t bailing yet, with the first scheduled game (Miami hosting Alabama-Birmingham on Sept. 10) less than a month away.

The SEC doesn’t seem ready to give in, either.

“I look forward to learning more about the factors that led the Big Ten and Pac-12 leadership to take these actions today,” commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement. “I remain comfortable with the thorough and deliberate approach that the SEC and our 14 members are taking to support a healthy environment for our student-athletes.”

Related: Could college football start without every team? It has before

The key words there are “thorough and deliberate approach.” For months, Sankey has preached patience. A decision as large as scrapping a football season — which would decimate athletic departments’ budgets and devastate players, coaches and fans — should be made with as much information as possible. That means waiting for clarity instead of acting prematurely. Because the SEC doesn’t kick off until Sept. 26, the league can afford to wait.

USF coach Jeff Scott expressed his optimism on Twitter with an updated Power Four: the SEC, ACC, Big 12 and AAC. “Conference champions go to @CFBPlayoff,” he said.

If the state’s largest programs continue toward a fall football season, they’ll do so with the unquestioned support of their governor. DeSantis said at the roundtable that he believes players will be safer with the structure of a season than they will be without it. He even wondered whether athletes without a team this fall could find their way to Florida.

“We’re here to say from the state of Florida, we want you guys to play,” DeSantis said.

Could that happen in the spring, as the Big Ten and Pac-12 hope? FSU officials aren’t convinced.

Related: Gainesville, Tallahassee businesses agree: ‘God help us all if we don’t have football'

Athletic director David Coburn said there’s no guarantee a spring season could take place, which means the Seminoles would be making a large financial gamble.

Thrasher was even less optimistic: “I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

Second Seminole opts out

Former four-star signee Dennis Briggs has opted out for this season after starting two games last year as a redshirt freshman. He is the second FSU defensive lineman to choose not to play, after Jamarcus Chatman made his decision last week.

“It’s a choice,” coach Mike Norvell said. “We have a football team right now that’s choosing to want to play. They’re wanting to be a part of this program and to continue to work for this season.”

UF-FSU update

The possibility of an FSU-UF game seems even bleaker Tuesday.
The possibility of an FSU-UF game seems even bleaker Tuesday. [ Tampa Bay Times ]

After recently raising the possibility of Florida and FSU resuming their rivalry despite the SEC eliminating non-conference games, DeSantis acknowledged that it might not happen. “There’s only a limited amount of options at this point,” DeSantis said.

Related: Exploring 60 years of ‘Florida is ducking Florida State’ gripes

DeSantis didn’t seem to like the idea of issuing an executive order to get the game scheduled because it should be a collaboration rather than a unilateral move.

Times staff writer Kirby Wilson contributed to this report.