Just four days before they are scheduled to play LSU, the No. 10 Florida Gators have put football activities on hold due to a coronavirus outbreak.
Florida’s football program, including players, coaches and personnel, has had 19 positive tests over the past several days, a source told ESPN’s Andrea Adelson, confirming a report by The Independent Florida Alligator.
The school announced earlier Tuesday that it has five new cases.
“The University of Florida football team has experienced an increase in positive COVID tests among players this week,” Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin said in a statement. “Out of an abundance of caution, team activities are paused as of Tuesday afternoon.
“Head coach Dan 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. These circumstances will be re-evaluated by UF Health and the athletic department’s sports medicine staff Wednesday.”
On Monday, Mullen praised the way his team has handled coronavirus protocols, avoiding a major outbreak with the highly transmissible virus.
“If you look at what we’ve been able to do … I think we’re a model of safety of what we’ve been doing during this time period,” Mullen said. “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.”
The team had 21 positive cases once players returned to campus in late May. It had no positive cases in August and seven positives in September.
Mullen said over the weekend that he wants more fans in the stands. After Florida was upset at Texas A&M, Mullen said: “I know our governor passed that rule, so certainly, hopefully, the UF administration decides to let us pack The Swamp against LSU — 100% — because that crowd was certainly a factor in the game.”
Mullen was given an opportunity to back down a few minutes later. Instead, he stood by his comments.
“Absolutely want to see 90,000 in The Swamp,” he said. “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.”
Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork issued a statement after learning of Florida’s situation. “We have been in touch with officials at the University of Florida and have also reviewed the available data from the Kinexon contact tracing system deployed by the SEC,” he said. “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.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.