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Scott Stricklin: Gators won’t rush athletes back unless it’s safe

Florida Gators athletic director Scott Stricklin looks on during an introductory press conference for new football head coach Dan Mullen at the Bill Heavener football complex on November 27, 2017 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
Florida Gators athletic director Scott Stricklin looks on during an introductory press conference for new football head coach Dan Mullen at the Bill Heavener football complex on November 27, 2017 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images) (2017 Getty Images)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Scott Stricklin covered a wide variety of topics on Tuesday afternoon, revealing his diagnosis of COVID-19 last month and saying that a return to college sports remains a moving target on when schools feel it can safely be done.

The University of Florida athletic director said that athletes are ready to get back out on the playing field, but schools have to be able to properly test and protect them when they do. Stricklin said that Florida had done 238 tests across all sports with 29 positive COVID-19 results.

Asked if college football was worried about a bad look if it rushed players back to the field to try and salvage a season, Stricklin said that the sport wouldn’t do that.

“I don’t think we’re going to put them in a situation where we’re going to have bad optics. I think we’re going to be careful enough, that you know, really that’s our, that’s our job. Our job, we want to win games and we want to, you know, create a great environment for 90,000 people to fill the Swamp under normal situations,” he said.

“But our number one job is to protect and provide an opportunity for these student-athletes. These 500 young people who come and are a part of our program. So, I can see how if we were to rush into it, it could look bad. I don’t think college football will do that.”

The scheduling and what ifs about football in the fall remain up in the air, Stricklin said. As big of business as college football is, Stricklin said that games can’t happen until schools can ensure the safety of athletes, coaches and staff in a non-bubble environment that professional leagues are trying to adhere to.

“In a perfect world, Major League Baseball, NBA, most people would already be playing and we could sit back and learn from them, and hopefully they’ll get up going here pretty soon and we can have some time to study what they’re doing,” Stricklin said.

Stricklin revealed on the call that he tested positive for COVID-19 last month and that his symptoms were mild. He said that he thought that he was taking enough safety precautions and stressed the importance of being careful.

“My symptoms were mild,” he said. “So I wasn’t, I never really had any anxiety. I was kind of mad at myself that I had put myself in that situation.”

The SEC hasn’t announced a decision on what its schedule will look like this year, saying on Monday that it was still in the process of gathering information. It expected to have a decision by the end of the month. Stricklin said that capacity at the Swamp would likely be in the 15,000 to 20,000 range using proper social distancing measures.

The Big Ten announced last week that its schools would play a conference-only schedule in 2020. The Pac-12 followed suit two days ago. If the SEC adopted that strategy, it would erase a game like Florida-Florida State. Stricklin said that he’d still like to play that game if it was safe to do so.

On whether the Florida-Georgia game in Jacksonville would shift sites, Stricklin said that hasn’t been discussed.

Stricklin said that he saw a headline about the Jaguars announcing that they were planning on reducing stadium capacity to 25% at TIAA Bank Field, but wasn’t familiar with the details. There have been no discussions on potentially moving the Florida-Georgia game to a campus site.

“Our hope is to be able to play the game and be able to play in Jacksonville in some form,” he said.


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