Florida coach apologizes as SEC postpones LSU game amid COVID surge

The Bulldogs have had some success against the Gators over the last decade

Florida and Georgia are scheduled to meet Nov. 7 in Jacksonville

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Dan Mullen apologized Wednesday “if I offended people or anybody out there” with his comments about wanting to pack Florida Field with 90,000 fans during the coronavirus pandemic.

Mullen also said two assistant coaches tested positive for COVID-19. Saturday’s game against defending national champion LSU was postponed until Dec. 12, the SEC announced Wednesday afternoon.

The Gators had 19 positives following Tuesday morning testing, a person familiar with the situation told the Associated Press. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because of privacy laws. The Independent Florida Alligator first reported the total number of positives.

Athletic director Scott Stricklin on Tuesday said a decision to halt meetings and practices was made “out of an abundance of caution.” Stricklin added that Mullen has spoken with players and parents and that he told last week’s opponent, Texas A&M, and Saturday’s opponent, the Tigers. The Gators and Georgia Bulldogs are scheduled to meet Nov. 7 in Jacksonville, Fla.

The shutdown came three days after Mullen’s eyebrow-raising comments.

Florida moved to everyday testing after getting a spike in positives from Sunday’s test results. The Gators expect to know more after getting results from Wednesday morning tests.

“I don’t want to speculate where we are right now,” Mullen said. “We’re taking an abundance of caution. … We’re certainly hoping and everybody that we’ve worked for getting these tests back before we conduct any team activity to make sure that we’re keeping everyone as safe as possible.”

He brushed aside criticism and praised his players for how well they have handled COVID safety protocols.

An increase in positives followed. Now, the Gators are trying to trace the origin of the outbreak.

“We’ve not been able to do that because I would still not be surprised if one to two of them were random,” Mullen said. "And the randoms can throw you off with tracing with, ‘Oh, this guy got it. It couldn’t have been that. Or how did this person get in the group of getting it?’

“Again, I don’t want to speculate to where and how it could have happened. I want to get some more numbers back before we do that. But our medical staff has really spent time trying to trace the origins of where the clump of them would have come from.”

The SEC already has postponed one game this week: Vanderbilt and Missouri was tentatively pushed to Dec. 12 because COVID-19 issues have left the Commodores without enough players. It was the first SEC game rescheduled due to coronavirus-related problems and the 28th in the Football Bowl Subdivision to be postponed or canceled since Aug. 26.

Florida reported five new COVID-19 positives earlier Tuesday, but those results stemmed from last week’s tests. The Gators test student-athletes three times a week, with football players getting tested Sunday at noon as well as Tuesday and Thursday mornings.

In Other News