Aerial view of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Photo and Caption: felixtm/Depositphotos.com
Governor DeSantis said on May 13 that the University of Florida (UF) could allow NFL teams to use Florida Field, better known as the Swamp if they need venues to play football in the fall. The Florida Governor said other sports teams are welcome to come down to the Sunshine State to practice or even play games amid the coronavirus pandemic. DeSantis the next day on Thursday, May 14 told Fox News that the University of Florida is open to potentially holding games at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville on Sundays.
Basketball and baseball games would also be included, according to Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin. Stricklin also on May 14 said he reached out to Governor DeSantis and said that UF would “be prepared” to host pro sporting events if called upon. “Our priority is the well-being of Gator students-athletes, staff, and fans, and we are working toward the day when we can once again engage with those groups safely on campus,” Stricklin said in a statement on May 14. “Following Governor DeSantis’ comments yesterday inviting 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.”
DeSantis expressed his hope to open up Florida for athletic events. He deemed sports “essential services” in April, leading to UFC events being held in the state without fans in the stands. A noted sports fan himself, DeSantis partnered with the NFL to create a “Python Bowl” to eliminate invasive reptiles. In mid-March, the governor took the unusual step of moving the taping of WWE’s “SmackDown” show to Orlando. On April 13, DeSantis declared pro wrestling to be an essential business. Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings seemed frustrated by the decision in a press conference the next day.
College football games are currently still suspended, and play may resume in the fall if it’s deemed safe enough. The NFL held its draft last month and released a 2020 schedule last week, with the first game set for Sept. 10. If they happen at all. In addition to UF’s stadium, Camping World Stadium and UCF’s Spectrum Stadium in Orlando and Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee could be options to host NFL teams. If colleges or the city of Orlando got the opportunity to charge teams for use of any of the venues, it could provide a revenue boost.
SEC Presidents will vote on May 22 whether to bring players back to campus June 1 or June 15, according to LSU Executive Deputy Director of Athletics, Verge Ausberry.
William is the Managing Editor at FloridaInsider.com. His years of experience in journalism, broadcasting and multimedia include roles as a Writer and Web Producer. He graduated from Florida International University with a Bachelor of Science and Communication.