GAINESVILLE -- Will Florida receiver Riley Cooper be playing football for the Gators come August?
"Good question," said Larry Cooper, Riley's father. "Wish I had your answer. It's totally up in the air. No decisions have been made."
Cooper, who was recently drafted in the 25th round by the Texas Rangers, is in Texas this summer playing in the Texas Collegiate League. Cooper began the summer playing in the Cape Cod Baseball League but the Rangers invited him down to the Lone Star State to get a closer look at their prospect. Cooper is currently 1-for-14 for the McKinney Marshalls but his one hit was a home run.
Larry Cooper stressed on Tuesday that contract negotiations with the Rangers are in "a very preliminary phase at this point" and a decision on Riley's future will not be made for another two or three weeks. Major League Baseball's deadline to sign players selected in the First-Year Player Draft is August 17. Larry Cooper said on Tuesday that Riley will likely make a decision -- baseball or football -- before August 1. Florida's football practice begins the first week of August.
"We don't know if he's going to sign or get offered the right amount of money," Larry Cooper said. "It's a tough decision but who knows? News will happen if he signs but I don't even know if it's newsworthy at this point because nothing has happened."
Larry Cooper was pretty close to the vest on Tuesday but did emphasis that Cooper loves the Gators and is close friends with quarterback Tim Tebow. They're roommates, after all, and Cooper's relationship with Tebow could weigh into Cooper's decision, according to his father. Cooper and Tebow will be roommates again this fall if Cooper returns to school, according to Larry Cooper.
Could Riley Cooper play football this fall and then sign with the Rangers after the football season, similar to route taken by former Notre Dame receiver Jeff Samardzija? No. Samardzija was drafted in the summer of 2006 by the Chicago Cubs and then played football for the Irish in the fall of 2006. He later signed with the Cubs in January 2007. Later in 2007, Major League Baseball upped its deadline for players taken in the Rule 4, First-Year Player Draft to August 15. The deadline is now August 17. That means if Riley doesn't sign with the Rangers now he will have to get drafted again in 2010.
Of course, Riley could always say the heck with baseball next year and try his luck in the NFL. Cooper will be one of Tebow's main targets this season, assuming Cooper plays football, and his pro-football stock could rise.