GAINESVILLE, Fla. – About a week after calling for fans to pack The Swamp in Gainesville, University of Florida head coach Dan Mullen tested positive for coronavirus.
He’s the latest in a mounting outbreak for the No. 10 Gators that prompted the postponement of their matchup with defending national champion LSU.
They are now scheduled to play in December.
The Southeastern Conference postponed Saturday’s LSU-Florida game a day after Mullen had 19 players and coaches test positive for COVID-19. Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin said Wednesday the number is now up to 21 positives with considerably more in quarantine because of contract tracing.
Mullen announced via Twitter on Saturday that he has also tested positive. He said he is self-isolating from his family, who all remain healthy.
“I am proud of how our players, staff and campus community have navigated this unprecedented time and hope all continue to be safe,” Mullen wrote.
The Florida-LSU game was tentatively rescheduled for Dec. 12, the league’s built-in bye week before its annual championship. It’s the second SEC game bumped this week, following Missouri-Vanderbilt.
Florida hosts Missouri next, on Oct. 24, and that game also could be in jeopardy.
Florida paused team activities Tuesday after seeing a spike in positives. Mullen said two assistant coaches also tested positive. The Gators have since moved to everyday testing and halted meetings and practices indefinitely.
Florida’s shutdown came three days after Mullen’s comments about wanting to pack 90,000 fans inside Florida Field to create a better home-field advantage against the Tigers. Mullen didn’t double down Monday, but he didn’t back down, either.
He brushed aside criticism and praised his guys for how well they have handled COVID safety protocols.
He finally backtracked two days later, apologizing “if I offended people or anybody out there.”
“One of the things I want to encourage was whatever our local health officials come and out say, ‘This is the number of people that we’re going to allow at the game right now,'” Mullen said. “I want to encourage those people to come in, bring the energy, bring the excitement into the stadium and help our team to win and bring that energy that they bring of what makes the Swamp such a special place to go play in.”
Stricklin made it clear Wednesday that Mullen overstepped his area of expertise and added that the plan for the rest of 2020 would be to allow up to 17,000 fans (25% capacity) at Florida Field for home games.
“That number will change one day. I don’t know when they’ll change,” Stricklin said. "But until that changes, this is where we’re going to be.”