NFL games at The Swamp? Florida 'prepared' to host, AD says

Could there be NFL football played at The Swamp this fall?

On Wednesday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a news conference that all professional sports teams — even from other states — are welcome to come down to the Sunshine State to practice or even play games amid the coronavirus pandemic. A day later, DeSantis told Fox News that the University of Florida is open to potentially holding games at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville on Sundays. 

“I’ve already spoken with some of our colleges, like the University of Florida,” DeSantis said. “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.”

Later Thursday, Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin said he reached out to DeSantis and that UF would “be prepared” to host pro sporting events if called upon. That includes basketball and baseball, too. 

“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,” Stricklin said in a statement. “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.”

A general view of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

DeSantis has been vocal about his hope to open up Florida for athletic events. He deemed sports “essential services” last month, leading to UFC events being held in the state without fans in the stands. He said Wednesday that MLB and MLS franchises are welcomed in Florida, though he said there likely wouldn’t be fans in the stands quite yet. 

Meanwhile, the University of Florida campus remains closed for classes and athletic activities. Coaches have been working remotely while student-athletes remain at their homes. 

The SEC has suspended all in-person athletic activities, including practices and workouts (individual and team) through at least May 31. The conference announced Thursday that it has formed a medical task force in its effort to have teams return to competition. 

“As the Southeastern Conference office continues to closely monitor and learn about COVID-19 and associated public health information, this task force of medical professionals has begun to provide the guidance necessary to make decisions related to the return to athletics activities for SEC student-athletes and to assist in our collaboration with colleague conferences in determining a safe return to athletics competition,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said.

“The expertise of these medical professionals is playing an important role in our continuing focus on the health and well-being of SEC student-athletes.”

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