GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Southeastern Conference postponed Saturday’s game between No. 10 Florida and defending national champion LSU a day after the Gators had 19 players test positive for COVID-19.
The game was tentatively rescheduled for Dec. 12, the league’s built-in bye week before its title game. It’s the second SEC game bumped this week, following Missouri-Vanderbilt.
Florida paused team activities Tuesday after learning it had 19 positives and about a dozen more quarantined because of contact tracing results. Gators coach Dan Mullen said two assistant coaches also tested positive for COVID-19. Those numbers could increase with Wednesday’s test results.
Florida moved to everyday testing after seeing a spike in positives Sunday, the day after a 41-38 loss at Texas A&M.
“I don’t want to speculate where we are right now,” Mullen said. “We’re taking an abundance of caution. … We’re certainly hoping and everybody that we’ve worked for getting these tests back before we conduct any team activity to make sure that we’re keeping everyone as safe as possible.”
The shutdown came three days after Mullen’s comments about wanting to pack 90,000 fans inside Florida Field to create a better home-field advantage against the Tigers. Mullen didn’t double down Monday, but he didn’t back down, either.
He brushed aside criticism and praised his players for how well they have handled COVID safety protocols.
He finally backtracked two days later, apologizing “if I offended people or anybody out there.”
“One of the things I want to encourage was whatever our local health officials come and out say, ‘This is the number of people that we’re going to allow at the game right now,’” Mullen said. “I want to encourage those people to come in, bring the energy, bring the excitement into the stadium and help our team to win and bring that energy that they bring of what makes the Swamp such a special place to go play in.”
An increase in positives followed Mullen’s postgame comments from Texas A&M. Now, the Gators are trying to trace the origin of the outbreak.
“We’ve not been able to do that because I would still not be surprised if one to two of them were random,” Mullen said. “And the randoms can throw you off with tracing with, ‘Oh, this guy got it. It couldn’t have been that. Or how did this person get in the group of getting it?’
“Again, I don’t want to speculate to where and how it could have happened. I want to get some more numbers back before we do that. But our medical staff has really spent time trying to trace the origins of where the clump of them would have come from.”