LSU at Florida game Saturday postponed because of COVID-19

Robbie Andreu
Gator Sports
Saturday's LSU vs. Florida game scheduled for Saturday has been postponed because of COVID-19.

 There is going to be no football in what now will be an eerily silent and empty Swamp on Saturday afternoon.

 Florida’s 4 p.m. game with SEC rival LSU has been postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak that has hit the UF football program this week. The game is tentatively rescheduled for Dec. 12.

 The postponement was announced by the SEC after the football team underwent another round of COVID testing Wednesday morning that revealed more positive tests among the players.

 “Due to a significant number of COVID cases, we are unfortunately announcing a postponement of the Florida/LSU game that was scheduled for Saturday,” UF athletic director Scott Stricklin said on a Zoom call with the media. “We have worked with Scott Woodward the athletic director of LSU along with the SEC office, Charlie Hussey, Mark Womack and, of course, Mr. (Greg) Sankey to tentatively have rescheduled again for December 12, which was a date put in the late schedule for circumstances like this because we anticipated there might be issues as we went through the season.”

 During daily testing that started Sunday morning, 21 players and two assistant coaches have tested positive. Of those players, 19 are on scholarship. Add in those who are quarantined through contact tracing and those out with injuries, and the Gators would have been down to 50 scholarship players for Saturday’s game, three below the SEC limit to play a game.

 Stricklin said he did not have an exact number on how many players are in quarantine.

 “We’ve reached a point where we don’t think it’s appropriate that we try to play the game this weekend,” Stricklin said.

 Stricklin said none of the players and coaches who tested positive are seriously ill.

 “Fortunately, all those who are positive, including some coaches and some football staff, seem to be either asymptomatic or only experiencing mild symptoms,” he said. “That’s obviously a positive right now. Hopefully, they will continue to not have more severe symptoms.

 “There’s a sense of frustration, but we understand this virus can sneak up on you and you can have it spread in the bat of an eyelash. That’s what we’re seeing right now.”

 UF paused all football activities Tuesday after the number of positive tests, which stood at five Sunday, grew to 19. The program will remain on pause indefinitely. The coaching staff was sent home Wednesday, and there is no timeline for a return to activities. Daily testing will continue.

 “We'll do that (daily testing) until we feel like we have a handle on (the) spread,” Stricklin said.

 Stricklin said last weekend’s road trip to Texas A&M may have been the origin of the spread.

 “There’s suspicion that the trip this past weekend to College Station probably was at the root of it,” he said. “A lot of it is anecdotal. But from talking to our sports health staff, a couple of our athletes who have tested positive since coming back from that trip subsequently reported that late last week they had what they thought were allergy type symptoms.

 “One of them was congested, one of them had a headache and they did not report those symptoms as we have an expectation they do so because they didn’t think it was anything other than seasonal type cold that we experience through allergies or whatever. There’s a suspicion that maybe that is what helped make this an event that had this kind of spread.”

 UF had no problems come out of their first road trip to Ole Miss in the season opener three weeks ago. Stricklin said the protocols for road games will be scrutinized.

 “The travel situation is going to get a really close review,” he said. “There have 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.”

 There is  less control of the environment on the road than at home, where UF has created open-air settings for lifting weights and team meetings.

 “Doing a lot of things on a day-to-day basis to not put yourself in a position where you have something like this occur,” Stricklin said. “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.”

 Florida’s next game is scheduled for Oct. 24 against Missouri in The Swamp. The status of that game, of course, is uncertain at this time and will depend on how testing goes in the coming week.

 “It’s hard to speculate right now,” Stricklin said. “Obviously, we’ll be in communication with the Southeastern Conference and keep Missouri abreast of what we’re seeing, and we’ll continue our regular testing protocol for those who aren’t in quarantine, and hopefully we don’t have any more positives and we’re able to get on the other side of this and then we can get everyone back in a situation where you can go compete again.”

 UF-LSU is the second SEC game postponed this weekend because of the virus.

The virus has prompted schools and conferences to postpone more than two dozen college football games and forced many teams to compete without key players.

Vanderbilt’s game at Missouri on Saturday has been postponed because COVID-19 issues have left the Commodores without enough available players. The Southeastern Conference announced Monday the game has been tentatively rescheduled for Dec. 12. It is the first SEC game rescheduled due to COVID-19-related problems and the 28th FBS game overall to be postponed or canceled since Aug. 26.

Vanderbilt (0-3) played with only 56 scholarship players last week in a loss to South Carolina. Vandy had six players opt out of the season, including four offensive linemen.