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University of Florida 'prepared' to host displaced pro sports teams, athletic director says

After Gov. Ron DeSantis welcomes sports leagues to Florida, Scott Stricklin gives blessing
'The Swamp' Gators seat backs at Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in 2016
Posted at 11:14 PM, May 14, 2020

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Could the University of Florida serve as a temporary home for a displaced professional sports team amid the coronavirus pandemic?

Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin suggested Thursday that the state's flagship university would "be prepared" to do just that, one day after Gov. Ron DeSantis welcomed professional sports leagues back to the Sunshine State.

"All professional sports are welcome here for practicing and for playing," DeSantis said during a news conference Wednesday in Tallahassee. "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 here in the state of Florida."

Florida is already home to several professional teams, including Major League Baseball, the NBA and NFL.

DeSantis offered up one of Florida's crown jewels Thursday during an appearance on Fox News -- Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

"I've already spoken with some of our colleges, like University of Florida," DeSantis told Fox News. "They got a great football stadium -- 'The Swamp' -- that's not used on Sunday. So if an NFL team needs a place to land, we could work that out, too."

Stricklin echoed the governor's remarks, issuing a statement in which he said he spoke with DeSantis to let him know the Gainesville school is an ideal spot for any professional sports team in need of a place to practice or play.

"I reached out to remind him that UF and Gainesville have world-class health 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," Stricklin said. "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."

Although the Gators are scheduled to open the 2020 football season Sept. 5 at home against Eastern Washington, there's no guarantee college football will played this fall. The NCAA canceled all spring sporting events in March and has yet to make a decision regarding the return of college athletics.