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Florida Football

Florida-LSU Postponed

October 14, 2020

Saturday’s game between No. 10 Florida and LSU in the Swamp has been postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak within the Gators this week, the SEC announced on Wednesday. The game is now tentatively scheduled to be played on Dec. 12, a weekend the league left vacant to make up games if needed. 

UF athletic director Scott Stricklin said the Gators have 21 active cases, including 18 among scholarship players. When combined with players being isolated due to contact tracing procedures and players unavailable due to injury, they have fewer than 50 scholarship players available, which is below the SEC’s minimum threshold of 53 players. Two assistant coaches and several other staff members have also tested positive this week.

“Certainly understand the importance of trying to have a team prepared, available if possible during this odd season that we're all in,” Stricklin said. “Certainly, that was our intention, but we've reached a point where we don't think it's appropriate that we try to play the game this weekend.

“Obviously, we have something going on in our football program. So, we are going to pause activities indefinitely until we get a handle on that. Those athletes and staff who are not in quarantine will continue with the regular testing program so we can kind make sure we have a handle on this before we decide next steps.”

Everybody who has tested positive is either asymptomatic or exhibiting mild symptoms, Stricklin said.

Florida has been in contact with the SEC and Missouri in regards to next weekend’s scheduled matchup in the Swamp, but there is no timetable on a decision. Players and coaches who test positive are required to be quarantined for 10 days from the onset of symptoms, while those identified as close contacts are required to isolate for 14 days from the date of last exposure. The Gators have an additional bye week on Oct. 31, so there’s a chance the league could move around some games and push Florida-Missouri back a week.

“We'll use every available weekend when we're able to be willing to play,” he said. “I think the league has had pretty good camaraderie as far as understanding this is not going to be normal and everyone is going to have to be flexible if we want to try to get a season in for everybody."
The team’s trip to Texas A&M last weekend is believed to be the source of the outbreak, he said. Several players who tested positive admitted that they experienced mild symptoms such as a runny nose or a headache last week but dismissed them as allergies or a cold and didn’t report them to medical personnel. Those players then could’ve passed the virus onto teammates during the flight or at the hotel.

“Something’s happened in the last three or four days, and that’s the thing that you would point to as the biggest adjustment to our normal schedule,” he said. “So, it just leads you to be a little suspicious that something would happen on that trip.

“Understanding your own body and being on the lookout to be suspicious when you do have any kind of abnormality, whether it’s a headache or sniffles or fatigue, whatever it may be,” Stricklin said. “As a college student, you have those things, and it’s not uncommon. But in a COVID environment, it’s so important that we are hypersensitive to being diligent on that front. I don’t know that this was a situation where someone goes, ‘I don’t feel well, but I’m going to power through it.’ I think this is a situation where someone felt like, ‘I’ve got a sniffle. I need a Kleenex, and I’m ready to play a game.’”

Stricklin said a health professional in a professional sports league told him that there have been zero recorded instances of the virus being transmitted in an outdoor athletic setting, so he doesn’t believe practicing on Monday helped contribute to the outbreak. He also doesn’t believe the fans at Texas A&M played a factor.

When mandatory football activities began in July, the Gators had a total of 11 COVID cases up until October. That’s less than one positive test per week on average. He thinks that the dramatic uptick in cases this month is a result of traveling to play games, he said, although it’s tough to know for sure what caused the outbreak. All aspects of future road trips will be reviewed closely.
“There’s been some NFL teams that have also had issues with that very thing,” he said. “There’s no secret that’s the one part of playing sports that is a little more complicated. You’ve heard Coach [Dan] Mullen talk about all the steps we’ve taken within our own facility to put the weight room, the weight equipment over in the indoor where they have the open-air environment and have the meeting spaces up in the stadium where, again, they have an open-air environment. Doing a lot of things on a day-to-day basis to not put yourself in position where you have something like this occur. It’s hard to create that when you’re traveling. We’ve got to continue to be really open to ideas of how we can make those situations a little healthier if you have a situation where you have a potential spreader involved.”

Stricklin said he got a call from Paul Silvestri, the head athletic trainer for football, on Monday morning. Silvestri informed him that several players had reported symptoms on Sunday night, and he was concerned that they might be having an outbreak. The team meeting that was schedule for 8 a.m. on Monday was canceled while they awaited test results. Once an increasing number of tests started coming back positive, they started testing everyone daily, which they will continue doing for the foreseeable future.

This isn’t the first time COVID has wreaked havoc on UF’s athletic department. The soccer team’s first match was postponed last month due to positive tests on the Gators. The lacrosse and baseball teams had their team activities suspended due to large outbreaks. The football team having a game postponed is disappointing but not unexpected. It’s just an obstacle they’re going to have to work around this season. 

“This is not fun, but it is in such a better place than where we were several months ago, and we continue to learn and adapt, and COVID is not going away,” Stricklin said. “We've got to learn to manage and deal with it. But we don't have to be scared of it. We can continue to do things, but we’ve got to respect it, and we've got to make smart choices, and we've got to protect ourselves and protect one another.

“This probably won't be the last sporting event for the University of Florida that gets postponed this school year, unfortunately. So, we’ve got to learn to manage it. It’s not the end of the world. We want to keep people safe. Based on what I know right now, medically speaking, all these individuals are going to come back, and they're going to be OK.” 

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