Is the state of Florida the key to saving sports in 2020?
American sports have not yet been declared entirely dead in 2020, but they are in need of a savior. Could that savior be the state of Florida?
If Florida has anything to do with it, that would be the case. It is ready to play the hero role, according to Governor Ron DeSantis—who indicated earlier this week that his state will be open to teams that play in states not allowing for professional and college sports to move forward. As of now, of course, it has not been determined which states around the country will remain closed to sports and for how long. Florida, though, has long been one of the states quicker to reopen various businesses (it is currently in “Phase 1” reopening).
“Our people are starved to have some of this back in their lives,” DeSantis said. “It’s an important part of people’s lives. So we want to be able to do that, and I think we can certainly do it in a way that’s safe…. What I would tell commissioners of leagues is, ‘If you have a team in an area where they just won’t let them operate, we’ll find a place for you in the state of Florida.’ Because we think it’s important, and we know that it can be done safely.
“I’ve already spoke with some of our colleges, like the University of Florida,” he continued. “They [have] 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.”
UF athletic director Scott Stricklin confirmed the availability of the Gators’ campus.
“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 noted. “Following Governor DeSantis’ comment 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.”
Various sporting events throughout other parts of the state have either already taken place or are scheduled for upcoming dates. Jacksonville recently hosed UFC fights. Two exhibition golf matches are set for later this month: Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson are going up against Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff in the TaylorMade Driving Relief at Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach on Saturday. The Champions for Charity showdown featuring Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning vs. Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady will be played at Medalist Golf Club outside of Jupiter the following Sunday.
McIlroy/Johnson and Woods/Manning are -180 favorites to win their respective contests.
Elsewhere, Major League Soccer is planning to hold a July tournament at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex Orlando. There are also rumors that the tennis U.S. Open may be moved from New York to Orlando later this summer. Florida could also be the setting for neutral sites in the possible returns of the NBA and Major League Baseball.
Novak Djokovic is a +150 U.S. Open favorite to win the men’s event; Serena Williams is a +600 favorite on the women’s side.