GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — No. 10 Florida paused all team activities Tuesday following “an increase in positive COVID tests among players,” putting Saturday’s home game against defending national champion LSU in jeopardy.
The Gators had 19 positives following Tuesday morning testing, a person familiar with the situation told the Associated Press. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because of privacy laws. The Independent Florida Alligator first reported the total number of positives.
Athletic director Scott Stricklin said the decision to halt meetings and practices was made “out of an abundance of caution.” Stricklin added that coach Dan Mullen has spoken with players and parents and that he told last week’s opponent, Texas A&M, and Saturday’s opponent, the Tigers.
Stricklin said the situation “will be re-evaluated by UF Health and the athletic department’s sports medicine staff Wednesday.”
The shutdown came three days after Mullen’s eyebrow-raising comments about wanting 90,000 fans at 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.
“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,” Mullen said.
“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.”
Texas A&M AD Ross Bjork said the Aggies have reviewed contact tracing data deployed by the conference and found nothing yet.
“At this point, there has been no impact within our football program, but we will continue our regular testing regiment this week and stay diligent with all of our safety protocols,” Bjork said in a statement.
The Southeastern Conference already has postponed one game this week: Vanderbilt and Missouri was tentatively pushed to Dec. 12 because COVID-19 issues have left the Commodores without enough players. It was the first SEC game rescheduled due to coronavirus-related problems and the 28th in the Football Bowl Subdivision to be postponed or canceled since Aug. 26.
Florida reported five new COVID-19 positives earlier Tuesday, but those results stemmed from last week’s tests. The Gators test student-athletes three times a week, with football players getting tested Sunday at noon as well as Tuesday and Thursday mornings.