Florida players, coaches say #WeWantToPlay amid threat college football season will be canceled

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USF Bulls head coach Jeff Scott runs through drills during spring football practice at the USF Frank Morsani Football Complex on Tuesday, March 10, 2020 in Tampa, Florida. (Octavio Jones/Tampa Bay Times/TNS - OCTAVIO JONES/Tampa Bay Times/TNS

College football players and coaches across the state of Florida have joined a social media movement arguing they want to play the 2020 season despite the Big Ten reportedly voting to cancel all games due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Even if the Big Ten follows through with a plan to postpone the college football season and pushes it to the spring as first reported by Sports Illustrated and ESPN and later confirmed by the Detroit Free Press, state schools including Florida, Florida State, Miami, UCF and USF have less clarity about the future.

Sensing momentum for canceling the season, players and coaches have endorsed playing with some conditions, including strong safety protocol, protections for those who opt out and support for a players association. The growing call to essentially unionize college football players has added to an already tense discussion about how to proceed.

But for many coaches and players in the southeast, the math is simple. They believe their teams can compete as safely as possible, they’ve worked hard and they want to play.

“I fully support and stand proudly with our @USFFootball players #WeWantToPlay,” USF coach Jeff Scott posted on Twitter Monday morning. The first-year Bulls coach throwing his support behind a growing movement that began late Sunday after Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and other high profile players used social media to make the case why it is important to play the upcoming season.

“Let’s work together to create a situation where we can play the game that all of us love. Not divide and argue. There is a way forward,” Lawrence wrote in a series of tweets that highlighted reasons not playing would be detrimental to many college players.

Lawrence’s words and the hashtag #WeWantToPlay sparked online momentum as players and coaches from all conferences took to social media to voice their support for a season.

“I want to play … even if we gotta be locked in .. nothing at home for me,” UF running back Lorenzo Lingard, who joined the team as a transfer from Miami shared on Twitter.

FSU offensive lineman Andrew Boselli, who battled and recovered from COVID-19, also threw his support behind the movement, tweeting, “#WeWantToPlay #WearAMask.”

UCF offensive lineman Parker Boudreaux also threw his support behind the movement by tweeting, “#WeWantToPlay.”

While the SEC and ACC reportedly were involved in a meeting with the other Power 5 conferences Sunday, they have been among the last leagues to make alterations to their upcoming schedules. When the Big Ten choose to go to with a conference-only football schedule on July 9, the SEC and ACC waited until the last week of July to set their schedule plans.

President Trump threw his support behind the player movement Monday afternoon.

“The student-athletes have been working too hard for their season to be cancelled. #WeWantToPlay,” said Trump in a tweet.

Despite the push to postpone the 2020 season elsewhere, the Florida Gators appear confident football can be played on if proper safety protocols are followed. A source inside the program told the Orlando Sentinel during the weekend no one had tested positive for COVID-19 or was quarantined due to exposure to the illness since mandatory workouts began July 14.

Prior to that, 21 Gators had tested positive for the virus, the source said.

The American Athletic Conference and UCF athletics director Danny White, meanwhile, have indicated they hope to play this fall, but they concede that their fate is tied to the Power 5 leagues. Perhaps most frustrating for UCF and fellow Group of 5 schools, they do not have a seat at the table as Power 5 leaders are expected to decide the fate of the 2020 season during the next few days.

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©2020 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)