The global coronavirus pandemic has already led to the premature cancellation of numerous spring and winter sports, and the University of Florida is no exception.
Just hours before tip-off was set to commence in Nashville for the SEC Tournament, the Gators men’s basketball team learned they wouldn’t have a shot at an NCAA Tournament run – however, of all the athletic teams in Gainesville vying for glory, Mike White’s group may have had the lowest odds when considering 11 Florida teams finished the shorten season ranked in the top-25.
After beginning the season with a 16-0 record – the best start in program history – the UF baseball team finished the short season at No. 1, with a 2-0 loss to in-state rival FSU in what ultimately served as the final game at McKethan Stadium coming as the lone setback of the 2020 campaign.
Despite a perfect 10-0 record on the mat and several perfect 10s from Trinity Thomas, the UF gymnastics team settled for No. 2 behind Oklahoma as the Big 12 powerhouse narrowly edged the Gators by scoring a 198.4 this season to Florida’s 198.375.
Mike Holloway’s dream of coaching the U.S. Track and Field team in the Olympics wasn’t the only casualty of the coronavirus, as the UF men’s and women’s track and field teams were just days away from competing in NCAA Indoor Championships in Albuquerque, New Mexico, prior to the cancellation decision. The men’s team finished the season ranked No. 6 while the women came in at No. 11 in the rankings.
Like Holloway, former UF swimming coach Gregg Troy will have to wait for 2021 to realize his Olympic coaching dream – meanwhile, his successor, Anthony Nesty, appeared poised for success in his second season at the helm after the Gators came away with numerous awards and records at the SEC Championships. The No. 7-ranked women’s team qualified 11 swimmers for NCAA Championships, initially set for March 25-28, while the No. 11-ranked men’s team saw 13 swimmers qualify, with Robert Finke, Grant Sanders and Kieran Smith leading the way with three qualifications apiece.
“When everything started to unravel, at first I was disappointed and thought it was irrational,” Smith told the Gainesville Sun. “But as I realized how quickly things were progressing, I knew it was necessary for the state of public health.”
After compiling a 15-3 record – albeit largely in non-conference play – the Florida men’s tennis team finished the season ranked No. 9; like baseball, the Gators’ final appearance on the hardcourt – a loss to No. 12 Texas A&M – wasn’t indicative of the team’s overall success.
The Florida lacrosse team finished the season at No. 7 after compiling a 6-2 record, including a monumental victory at perennial powerhouse and top-ranked Maryland, and UF’s second season since Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium’s renovation ended with the Gators softball team finishing No. 7 after having just wrapped up the first weekend of conference play.
Although golf seems relatively safe according to guidelines set forth by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, that didn’t enable the Gators to continue their impressive seasons. The No. 9-ranked women’s team had just concluded their hometown Gators Invitational with a fifth consecutive title prior to the cancellation, while J.C. Deacon’s men’s team finished No. 22 after a fourth-place showing at the Southern Highlands Collegiate in Las Vegas.
The decision to suspend and ultimately cancel spring athletics was undoubtedly the right one considering the global climate – but that didn’t mean it wasn’t disappointing news for many athletes and coaches in Gainesville.
“Sad that all of our seasons were cut short but so proud of my fellow coaches and their teams!!” UF lacrosse coach Amanda O’Leary wrote on her Twitter account Thursday.