The University of Florida is open to hosting events involving professional sports teams looking for a way to play during the coronavirus pandemic, athletic director Scott Stricklin said in a statement Thursday.
After Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday that all professional sports teams are welcome in the state for practicing and playing, Stricklin reached out to discuss the facilities in Gainesville, Florida.
“I’ve already spoke with some of our colleges, like the University of Florida,” DeSantis said in an appearance on Fox News on Thursday. “They got a great football stadium, the Swamp, that’s not used on Sundays. So if an NFL team needs a place to land, we could work that out too.”
Florida State has not heard from the governor, but athletic director David Coburn said in a statement that “it is an interesting idea. FSU would certainly consider it in consultation with our local governments and health care providers.”
It’s unclear which other universities DeSantis spoke with about the possibilities of practicing or playing there.
In his statement, Stricklin said: “Our priority is the well-being of Gator student-athletes, staff and fans, and we are working toward the day when we can once again engage with those groups safely on campus. Following Governor DeSantis’ comment yesterday inviting other pro teams to participate in our state, I reached out to remind him that UF and Gainesville have world class health care facilities, an iconic football stadium, a state-of-the-art basketball arena and a brand-new baseball ballpark within two hours of cities with professional franchises. We’ve been receiving excellent guidance from our state and health care officials, and when those groups believe it is safe to host college and pro sporting events in Florida, we will be prepared to do so.”
The Florida campus remains closed for in-person classes, and coaches and student-athletes are not in their offices or able to use their facilities. But now that the state of Florida is in a Phase 1 reopening, that could change at some point in the future. The SEC has suspended all athletic activity through May 31.