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'These Guys Want To Play:' DeSantis And FSU Officials, Players Make The Case For Football In The Fall

Ryan Dailey, WFSU
Florida State University head football coach Mike Norvell talks with Governor Ron DeSantis during a roundtable discussion held at FSU's football practice facility on August 11, 2020.

On the turf of Florida State University’s athletic training facility, Governor Ron DeSantis held a discussion Tuesday with University President John Thrasher about the future of the coming football season.

Seminole football coach Mike Norvell, who’s heading into his first season at the helm at FSU, was also on hand.

DeSantis says he hopes to see the season go forward as planned in September, and thinks FSU can do that safely:

The protocols that they have in place are really even above and beyond what I would’ve even imagined, and I’ve been doing this stuff since February, day in day out, across the state in a variety of different contexts,” The governor said. “So, this is probably the safest environment these student-athletes can be in.”

Those protocols include daily temperature and symptom checks, as well as social distancing enforced during team meetings, according to the university’s athletic director David Coburn.

The Seminoles have had two football players opt out of playing this season. Norvell says he and the program “fully support” their decision, but told media Tuesday the rest of the team wants the chance to play this fall. He says 120 players on campus getting ready for the season are “here voluntarily.”

“These guys want to play. They want to be a part of this team, they want to grow together. They know that the protocols that are in place are safe, they know this is a place they can come to continue to develop in all aspects,” Norvell said. “And I worry if that’s taken away from them, what is that going to do to them mentally? And having to experience more challenges, more setbacks.”

Ryan Dailey
Florida State University defensive end Joshua Kaindoh, left, and wide receiver Keyshawn Helton joined Governor Ron DeSantis and university officials in calling for football games to be played this fall during a roundtable discussion August 11, 2020.

On the same day Florida State officials and the governor voiced support of going forward with a season, the Big 10 and Pac 12 – two of the “power 5” conferences alongside the Atlantic Coast Conference, which houses FSU – announced they will delay their fall sports seasons until at least the spring.

Other division one conferences, the Moutain West and Mid-American, have postponed their fall sports as well. Some smaller conferences like the Mid Eastern Athletic Conference, home to Florida A&M University, and the Ivy League, announced postponements weeks ago.

FSU President John Thrasher told media he doesn’t want to delay fall sports until spring.

“Our first game is September 12, 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.”

At the governor’s press event Tuesday were two FSU football players, who expressed their desire to play games in the fall. Wide receiver Keyshawn Helton, who endured a season-ending injury last year, said not playing this season would be a “disappointment,” adding he feels safe going forward with games in September.

“You talk about 18 to 22 year old, just quarantining at their house, that’s unrealistic,” Helton said. “There’s so many other things that guys are going to go do, which is not safe. So, being here with my team and all of us all together, is the safest for us.”

The Southeastern Conference, which houses the University of Florida’s football program, is planning to do a conference-only schedule this year, calling into question the FSU-UF rivalry game this year. DeSantis has repeatedly said he wants to see the ACC and SEC agree to make the classic match-up happen.