Florida Gators suspend football activities after coronavirus outbreak, jeopardizing LSU game
By Cindy Boren, Washington Post
October 14, 2020
The Florida Gators’ football program was placed on hold Tuesday after a number of players tested positive for the coronavirus.
The school announced Tuesday that five players received positive results in tests administered through Monday.
By later Tuesday afternoon, team activities had been paused “out of an abundance of caution,” Florida Athletic Director Scott Stricklin announced in a statement. During a conference call Wednesday morning, Coach Dan Mullen revealed that two assistant coaches had tested positive for the virus.
Mullen “has been in communication with football players and their parents, and I have had conversations with the Southeastern Conference office, last week’s opponent Texas A&M, and this week’s opponent LSU,” Stricklin said. As of Tuesday, A&M had reported there had been no positive tests stemming after the Florida game.
The school’s health and football officials planned to reevaluate the situation Wednesday. Players were not identified because of federal medical and student privacy laws.
The test results came days after Mullen created a stir when he called for Florida fans to “pack The Swamp” for the 2-1 Gators’ game against LSU (1-2), set to be televised at 4 p.m. Eastern time on ESPN. Attendance at college and pro games in Florida have been limited to a small percentage of capacity though Gov. Ron DeSantis approved fully opening stadiums to fans late last month.
“I know our governor passed that rule so certainly, hopefully, the UF administration decides to let us pack The Swamp against LSU — 100 percent — because that crowd was certainly a factor in the game,” Mullen said Saturday.
“Absolutely want to see 90,000 in The Swamp,” he continued. “I don’t think the section behind our bench, I didn’t see an empty seat. It was packed. The student section, there must have been 50,000 behind our bench going crazy. Hopefully that creates a home-field advantage for us next week because now we passed a law in our state that we can do that. We want our students out there cheering us on to give us that home-field advantage.”
W. Kent Fuchs, the president of the University of Florida, quickly responded that the school “remains fully and firmly committed” to following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines “for every part of our campus from classrooms to athletic venues.”
Mullen on Wednesday walked back his comments. “I certainly apologize if I offended anyone out there,” he said during a conference with reporters who cover the SEC and college football, adding that meant he wanted the stadium filled to whatever capacity was determined by health officials.
On Monday, Mullen had praised the school and team for its coronavirus protocols.
“I think if you look at what we’ve been able to do, the safety precautions we have that our players have followed, our coaches follow, our staff follows, you know, I think we’re a model of safety of what we’ve been doing during this time period,” he told reporters. “So, I’m really proud of how we’ve handled everything and how safe we’ve been with everything we’re doing and all the precautions we’ve had in place during this time.”