Florida congressional leaders rush to defend Darrell Jackson Jr.’s FSU transfer
Darrell Jackson, Jr. Image via AP.

Darrell Jackson
Neal Dunn, Michael Waltz led a letter to the NCAA supporting the defensive tackle.

More Florida elected officials are joining the team defending Darrell Jackson Jr.’s plans to play in a Seminole jersey this fall.

U.S. Reps. Neal Dunn, a Panama City Republican, and Michael Waltz, a St. Augustine Republican, co-led a bipartisan letter to NCAA President Charlie Baker. The message seeks a change of heart by the collegiate sports organization and pressures the group to grant a waiver to the recent Florida State University transfer student.

Jackson, a Gadsden County native, played in the past for both University of Maryland and the University of Miami. But in December, he announced plans to go to FSU to be near family in the Tallahassee area.

The NCAA, however, said switching schools means he will have to sit out a football season. The collegiate sports authority denied a waiver that would let the defensive tackle play ball in a Seminole jersey this year.

But the letter from Dunn and Waltz said the decision to dismiss Darrell’s request “sends the wrong message to our student athletes who choose to put family first when dealing with the health crisis of a loved one.”

The missive was co-signed by members of Florida’s congressional delegation from both sides of the aisle, including Democratic U.S. Reps. Jared Moskowitz, Darren Soto and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, as well as Republican U.S. Reps. Kat Cammack, Byron Donalds, Carlos Giménez, Laurel Lee, Cory Mills, María Elvira Salazar and Daniel Webster.

That letter follows a similar missive sent last week by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. And on Wednesday, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis sent a note to Baker as well.

The only thing more tribal in Florida than political parties may be college football loyalties. Yet, the story of a football player transferring to FSU to be near his ailing mother has touched hearts across all traditional dividing lines.

While Patronis noted his status as a concerned FSU alumnus in appealing to Baker, and Donalds also graduated from FSU, the elected officials leaving the sidelines to support Baker include Florida Gators Lee, Rubio and Wasserman Schultz. Salazar is an alumna of the University of Miami, the team Jackson transferred from.

The NCAA allows athletes to transfer schools once with no consequence in terms of play. But in an effort to avoid constant transfers and poaching between schools, the organization requires students who make a second transfer to sit out a full season.

But now, 14 state and federal officials say Jackson’s circumstances deserve special consideration.

“According to the homepage of its website, the NCAA is ‘dedicated to the well-being and lifelong success of college athletes,’” the letter from U.S. House members reads.

“We express concern that during a time of unprecedented change in college sports that the organization charged with the well-being and lifelong success of college athletes would provide a ruling that is self-evidently contradictory to its own mission statement.”

2023.08.16 FL Delegation Letter to NCAA Re Darell Jackson Jr by Jacob Ogles on Scribd

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


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