Georgia football picture raises social-distancing questions

Sanford Stadium

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

Sanford Stadium

ATHENS — Georgia football posted a picture on its social media channels Monday under the heading of “socially distanced we sit.” However, it showed players being anything but distanced.

Including coaches, trainers and support staff, players sat crammed together in two sections of Sanford Stadium along with family, friends and other individuals after the Bulldogs’ scrimmage this past Saturday. The caption for the picture read: “Socially distanced we sit, but united we move forward.”

Most of the individuals in the picture wore masks, though many did not. Almost none was six feet apart. Included in the shot were Georgia head coach Kirby Smart and UGA sports medicine director Ron Courson.

Georgia Athletic Director Greg McGarity said he was aware of the photo but declined comment.

Other UGA officials expressed concerns Monday about the lack of adherence to coronavirus safety protocols. While the athletes and coaches are screened and tested regularly, it is not known whether others present on Saturday were.

Former Georgia player Justin Fields, lately of Ohio State, was reported to have been in attendance Saturday. So were some specially admitted UGA football donors.

The Georgia picture was posted a day after Auburn announced it sidelined 16 players due to coronavirus infection or exposure. The Bulldogs play host to Auburn in the second week of the season, which is set to begin Sept. 26.

Georgia has not disclosed the number of its athletes who have tested positive for the coronavirus, though it is known that there have been some. UGA football players have been on campus training since June 8. They have been screened and tested regularly since then.

After Saturday’s scrimmage, Smart said he felt good about the Bulldogs’ efforts to combat the coronavirus and the deadly disease it can cause, COVID-19.

“I would say that, knock on wood, we’ve done a good job with Ron and his staff and we’ve been able to keep most of our players out there, from a health standpoint and from a COVID standpoint, to be able to practice,” he said.

Last Wednesday, UGA’s school website reported 173 positive tests among students, faculty and employees during the week of Aug. 17-21. That was up from 68 the previous week.

More than 30,000 UGA students returned to campus on Aug. 14 for classes that began on Aug. 20. Georgia football players interviewed last week said they most of their classes are being conducted digitally. UGA buses have socially distanced seating and riders aren’t allowed to board without masks. Masks have to be worn in all classrooms as well.