The college football season is entering Week 6, but a constant theme thus far is the postponement or outright cancellation of games every week as a result of positive COVID-19 tests.
The SEC saw its first postponement earlier this week when Vanderbilt had to push back their game against Missouri due to an outbreak. On Tuesday, word emerged from Gainesville that the Florida Gators had 19 positive tests coming off of last Saturday’s loss on the road at Texas A&M, and on Wednesday the conference confirmed that the primetime showdown between Florida and LSU was being postponed to December 12.
NEWS: The LSU at Florida FB game of Oct. 17 is postponed due to positive tests & subsequent quarantine of individuals within the Florida FB program. The action is consistent with SEC COVID-19 management requirements. The game is tentatively rescheduled for Dec. 12.
— Southeastern Conference (@SEC) October 14, 2020
Florida AD Scott Stricklin provided some details in a press conference on just how widespread their issue was with the virus, noting they had 18 scholarship players test positive along with three walk-ons, leaving them with barely over half of their roster available after contact tracing. He also said the trip to College Station last Saturday was likely a factor, and that some players thought they just had allergies and didn’t report symptoms prior to the trip.
Scott Stricklin says 18 scholarship players and three walk-ons are positive. Add in players in contact tracing and players with injuries and Florida has fewer than 50 scholarship players available.
— Andy Staples (@Andy_Staples) October 14, 2020
Stricklin says football players and staff members with COVID-19 are either asymptomatic or have mild symptoms.
On what caused outbreak, @ScottStricklin said: "There's suspicion that the trip this past weekend to College Station was at the root of it."
— Ryan Bass (@Ry_Bass) October 14, 2020
Stricklin said they now know a couple players did not report symptoms prior to the trip because they thought it was seasonal cold/allergies (!!)
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) October 14, 2020
That latter point is especially concerning because asking 18-22 year olds to self-report symptoms and pull themselves out of action is never going to fully work, because the kids want to play and, in fairness to them, the most basic symptoms of COVID-19 are, in fact, the same as allergies or a cold. That said, an abundance of caution is needed in this situation and when players don’t self-report and testing three times a week allows for gaps as the incubation period for the virus can be up to six days, the results can be an outbreak like what Florida is now dealing with even with reasonable protocols in place.
That it’s Florida dealing with this outbreak, mere days after coach Dan Mullen called for them to “pack The Swamp” with 90,000 fans after playing and losing at a loud Kyle Field that had questionable distancing protocols in place, has not been lost on anyone. Hopefully this will make Mullen recognize the severity of this situation and maybe change his tune a touch on trying to fill the entire stadium — as Florida’s governor has allowed for — and also hopefully those that have tested positive for Florida do not face severe symptoms or longterm complications.
This is not a problem unique to the Gators, however, as Ole Miss is dealing with an outbreak ahead of their game with Arkansas — coming off of a game with Alabama.
Ole Miss is dealing with a COVID outbreak, per Lane Kiffin.
“We’re just trying to manage it the best we can.”
— Matt Zenitz (@mzenitz) October 14, 2020
The SEC built extra bye weeks into the schedule to account for the potential for games needing to be moved, but so far I think we’ve seen far more games impacted than the conference hoped and it doesn’t seem to be stopping. Traveling is, without a doubt, one of the biggest issues they face in making football happen because if someone who has the virus but hasn’t tested positive yet is in the traveling party, it can spread swiftly through a team.