Florida head coach Dan Mullen reacts during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Mississippi in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020. Mullen was given several more chances Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, to walk back bizarre comments about wanting to pack 90,000 screaming fans inside Florida Field during the coronavirus pandemic. He declined each of them, brushing aside criticism and insisting he's focused on defending national champion LSU. (AP Photo/Thomas Graning)

Extent of UF’s COVID-19 outbreak clear in latest testing update

The significant COVID-19 outbreak that caused the postponement of two Florida football games last week can now be put into a little more perspective following new testing results released by the program on Tuesday afternoon.

After athletics director Scott Stricklin noted that the football program had 21 players (including three walk-ons) test positive by Wednesday afternoon last week, the testing update today revealed that 25 new players had tested positive since the previous week’s official results were released on Tuesday afternoon. In total, 31 football players have tested positive for COVID-19 in the month of October.

Florida had handled things well until the month began, but a few players who traveled to Texas A&M without informing the coaches and training staff that they were experiencing minor cold-like symptoms likely helped contribute to the larger outbreak.

Games against LSU and Missouri were postponed as a result, leaving the Missouri game to be played on Oct. 31 and the LSU game to be played on Dec. 12. Those adjustments mean Florida will be in a bind if there are any further outbreaks that impact games.

And while the Gators may be well-equipped now to survive any future scares thanks to the significance of their own outbreak, they certainly can’t guarantee that another team on the schedule won’t be impacted by a subsequent outbreak.

“I’m sure we’ll have other postponements, and we’ll manage it and we’ll move on,” athletics director Scott Stricklin said last week. “The important thing is can we can we continue to engage our athletes on campus and give them an opportunity to compete?”

To that end, Florida’s outbreak will likely be studied by the league, with recommendations passed on to other conference members to try to ensure they don’t miss a similar potential spreader event before it occurs.

“The travel situation, I think, is going to get a really close review,” Stricklin said. “There’s been some NFL teams that have also had issues with that very thing. 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 (practice facility) 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.”

The good news is that for as many players and coaches, both assistants and Mullen, as Florida’s had infected, there don’t appear to be any significant adverse symptoms to date.

That leaves UF hopeful it can return to the gridiron on Oct. 31 against Missouri.

“You look around at other football programs around the country who’ve had similar situations and they’ve come through it on the other side,” Stricklin said last week. “I really believe we will come through it on the other side. Obviously, we want to make sure our players are safe and healthy. And as I mentioned at the beginning fortunately we don’t have anybody who’s really sick from a symptom standpoint. But we want to make sure we take care of those individuals, we take care of those who are currently testing negative and make sure that they continue to stay safe.”

Author: Thomas Goldkamp, CBS Sports
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