Coburn makes passionate speech on behalf of FSU athletes

Florida State athletics director David Coburn spoke to the school’s Board of Trustees on a scheduled call on Thursday morning.

Coburn confirmed that FSU football had a “closed team meeting” just hours after defensive tackle Marvin Wilson contradicted how coach Mike Norvell characterized his comments.

“I’m told the dialogue was open and very candid and that it went well,” Coburn said. “I believe we are moving on there.”

Coburn also went on to detail a conversation he had with student-athletes on Wednesday night:

“I also want to tell you about a Zoom conversation I had last night with about 75 student-athletes to discuss Mr. Floyd’s death and other similar incidents here in Tallahassee and across the country. It was interesting, it was educational and emotional.

“They were open and candid with all of us. They are angry, they are hurt, they are frustrated. And some of them are just scared. They had a number of good ideas about what we can do in athletics.

“I will tell you that they challenged me a little bit about speaking out on their behalf. They asked if I was concerned about offending rich, powerful boosters and supporters. I thought about that and I thought about you as a group and I told them no. …

“As all of you know, I’m more of a listener than a speaker. Frankly I’d rather have a root canal than make  a speech. But I want to talk to you all for a few minutes on their behalf. These student-athletes are important. They are important to me and they are important to you. They are why we do what we do. They are important because they represent our future as well as the current situation. Athletics is more than a mirror in which we see a reflection of society, the good and the bad. It’s also the lens through which we see society as it could and should. Athletics is where we see young men and women of all races and nationality competing with each other, cooperating with each other. Helping each other out. Screaming at each other one minute, leaping into each other’s arms in sheer joy the next.

“You and I see all of these things in athletics, but more importantly our children and our grandchildren see them. And that changes their perception of how society could and should do.

“Burning buildings, breaking windows, destroying property, those things don’t change human hearts, they harden them. But when Travis Rudolph went in to that school cafeteria and sat down with that little boy, that changed human hearts. Our student athletes know that it can be done and they know how to do it.

“What has happened in the last few days has change America, I think, forever. We’re all going to have to become comfortable with the uncomfortable. When that happens here and when student-athletes speak up, and they are going to speak up all over America, we are going to see and hear things from athletes that will make all of us uncomfortable and when it happens here at Florida State, I ask that you not be upset. That you be understanding. That you not be angry, but that you be supportive. These student-athletes are determined to help change things. And we in the Florida State administration and athletics, our coaches, our staff, everyone, are determined to help them and to help them make really sustainable change happen because this absolutely has to stop.”

NIL legislation

Coburn offered some updates on name, image and likeness legislation. He said he anticipates that Gov. Ron DeSantis will sign the Florida bill but also that Sen. Marco Rubio is expected to introduce a bill in Washington that would pre-empt the state law.

Even those with varying viewpoints on NIL legislation have reached a consensus that some type of national legislation to create uniformity and a level playing field is important to college athletics. Coburn said “we are supportive” of a bill from Rubio.

Hamilton to speak at commencement

Coburn also said that FSU men’s basketball coach Leonard Hamilton would speak to graduates at the July commencement ceremony.

Spring sports eligibility

Coburn expects that 23 seniors in spring sports will return in 2020-21 and the cost to FSU will be just over $500,000. FSU has found funding for about half, with coaches from those sports finding money within their budgets or through coach’s clubs.

COVID-19 testing

FSU has done COVID-19 testing on football players and will then move on to men’s and women’s basketball players. “The dates for the sports (resuming offseason workouts) beyond football remain uncertain because I want to be sure how it goes with football before we proceed,” Coburn said.

After basketball players are tested, FSU will move on to soccer, volleyball and cross country. FSU is moving quickly to launch an in-house coronavirus testing lab. The emphasis is on accuracy as well as an 8- to 12-hour turnaround on results, according to VP of Research Dr. Gary Ostrander.