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DeSantis, FSU leaders united in push to play

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Football teams prepare for Saturdays on the practice field.

On Tuesday afternoon, a collection of individuals representing various interests gathered at midfield of Florida State’s indoor practice field to send a clear message: Football in the fall can and should take place on Saturdays. It was a united front, an argument to play football from Gov. Ron DeSantis, FSU president John Thrasher, athletics director David Coburn, football coach Mike Norvell, wide receiver Keyshawn Helton and defensive end Joshua Kaindoh.

“We’re here to say, from the state of Florida, we want you to play,” said DeSantis, who referenced trips to the FSU campus to watch games in various sports. “Football, of course. But not just football. This is integral to young men and women at Florida State and across the state of Florida.”

DeSantis said it’s a “safer environment” at FSU, with the protocols set up by the school, than if they were anywhere else. He went on to state he feels all of the state’s FBS schools – from Florida and Miami to UCF, USF, FAU and FIU – will push forward in an attempt to play football. 

“This is the safest place to be,” DeSantis said. “To take away that season would be short-circuiting the dreams that so many of our student-athletes have worked for their whole lives.”

Helton agreed: “This is the safest environment for us.”

The backdrop was surreal: Politicians sitting where FSU players were just minutes before practicing. DeSantis called discussions about postponing the football season to be “misplaced,” but it was also done behind another significant backdrop: The MAC pushed back its fall sports season on Saturday, followed by the Mountain West Conference on Monday and the Big Ten on Tuesday.

Thrasher said he thinks the ACC and SEC are aligned in their desires and intentions to play. He stated the Big Ten and Pac-12 were “vacillating,” and the Big Ten indeed pushed to the spring a few hours after the press conference. One of the main concerns that escalated over the weekend are medical reports of long-term heart concerns due to COVID-19. Thrasher said he and the ACC presidents have discussed the medical aspects in detail and that another meeting among the league’s presidents will be held later this week.

It was also clear Thrasher was sending a message to other leaders in the ACC. “We know that we can do it safely,” Thrasher said. “What we want to do, frankly, want to send is a message to some of the other schools that may be teetering on whether or not to play football. We think it’s in the best interest of our student-athletes to play football.” 

Norvell said players have endured the stresses of the past five months with the pandemic. He stated the Seminoles are excited about the season ahead. Later, Norvell stated the “greatest thing about the game of football is it mimics life. Being able to count on each other.”

Norvell said “football mimics life” in terms of accountability. (photo by Bob Ferrante)

Thrasher and Coburn outlined the protocols in place to test student-athletes, with Coburn saying FSU would likely go to biweekly testing during the season. FSU is confident with the procedures put in place and has an advantage in that it has set up its own COVID-19 testing lab just a few miles south of campus at Innovation Park.

All of this, the protocols and guidelines and testing capability, are set up as FSU looks to open the season in a month at home against Georgia Tech.

“Our first game is Sept. 12,” Thrasher said. “We’re ready to play.”

(photo by Bob Ferrante)

Briggs opts out

During the press conference, Norvell stated two players have opted out for the season. Coburn confirmed afterwards that defensive lineman Dennis Briggs has also opted out. Briggs and Jamarcus Chatman, another defensive lineman, are the only two players who have chosen to opt out and, by ACC rule, both will have their scholarship honored.

Fall sports and basketball update

Coburn was also asked about the status of other fall sports as well as men’s and women’s basketball, which would typically tip off in November. The soccer team has begun practice, while the men’s team works out in small groups and the women’s team has held 1-on-1 workouts with players.

“We’re putting most of the sports that we can on hold until we have a better idea of what’s going to happen with football,” Coburn said. “Now, basketball folks are here and are working out. The other sports, we’re being very careful about getting them started.”

You can watch a full video of the press conference here:

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