Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis penned a letter to presidents of state universities Monday, urging them to participate in college sports this year without fear of liability.
“I have been following recent media coverage regarding the possibility that college sports may be postponed through 2020, and I want to offer my support in working to move heaven and earth to ensure that’s not the case,” Patronis wrote.
The letter comes as the latest and most formal push by state leaders including Gov. Ron DeSantis and his predecessor, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, to see that college sports remain on the table in the Sunshine State.
But while DeSantis and Scott have simply expressed a desire to see it happen, Patronis assured universities that he intends to protect them from what he’s described as frivolous lawsuits.
“If you’re concerned about the legal liability of letting student athletes compete, let’s talk,” he continued. “Next legislative session, I plan to pursue legislation to protect our businesses and non-profits from legal firms who see the coronavirus as a business opportunity.”
In May, Patronis extended a similar message to Florida business owners. Then, he announced his prospective legislation would discourage lawyers from predatory ‘sue and settle’ tactics and shield small businesses from COVID-19-related claims. The scope of the legislation, however, would still allow legitimate lawsuits based on “reckless disregard for human life’ to move forward,” he said.
Beyond any legal and economical implications, Patronis also expressed concern for the well-being of the student-athletes themselves, many of whom rely on scholarships to further their education.
“Additionally, let’s not forget about the mental toll that will fall on our athletes who derive incredible joy and meaning from playing sports with their teammates,” he wrote. “As I have witnessed with my own children, sports provide an outlet that helps provide structure and teaches important lessons on teamwork and leadership that’s hard to replicate in the classroom.”
There are twelve universities in Florida represented by more than 11,000 student athletes.