The game has tentatively been rescheduled for the SEC’s built-in bye week on Dec. 12, which is the week before the SEC championship.
The SEC said on Twitter that the game was postponed after “positive tests & subsequent quarantine of individuals with the Florida FB program.”
Florida has 18 positives among scholarship players and three among walk-ons, athletic director Scott Stricklin said Wednesday. He said the players and staff members who tested positive are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms. Stricklin said he did not have an exact number of players who are now under contact-trace quarantine, but when adding in those with the positive cases and non-COVID-related injured players, Florida had less than 50 scholarship players available.
The SEC’s Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force stipulates that a team must have at least 53 scholarship players available to play a game, including seven offensive linemen (with one center), four defensive linemen and one quarterback.
“It can sneak up on you in a hurry,” Stricklin said. “The key thing is you’ve got to have the ability to push the brake when things start to occur like what we’re seeing right now. You’ve got to be willing to hit pause occasionally. The SEC schedule was set up with an event like this in mind. As much as we want to give our kids the opportunity to compete, we understand this isn’t a normal year and we’re going to have the ability to adapt to unusual circumstances such as this.”
Florida shut down its football program on Tuesday after a number of tests came back positive.
Stricklin said there is suspicion that the trip to play Texas A&M in College Station, Texas, this past weekend is at the root of the outbreak. However, a couple of UF players said they had allergy-type symptoms before leaving for the game and didn’t report it to UF officials. Stricklin said he learned early Monday that players were reporting symptoms, and the standard Sunday testing revealed multiple positives. That is when Florida started doing daily testing, and the numbers have increased since then. Stricklin said the team would continue doing daily testing until the spread is under control.
Florida coach Dan Mullen on Wednesday backtracked on a statement made Saturday in which he said he would like to see 100% capacity at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, citing a recent decision by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to lift COVID-19 restrictions that had limited the size of public gatherings.
Because Florida has so many players who are positive and in quarantine, next week’s game against Missouri could also potentially be in jeopardy. CDC guidelines say those with positive tests must isolate for 10 days, while contact tracing requires a 14-day quarantine. Stricklin said it was too early to know whether the Missouri game would have to be postponed as well.
“Well, it’s hard to speculate right now,” Stricklin said. “Obviously we’ll be in communication with the Southeastern Conference and probably get Missouri, obviously as our next opponent, to kind of keep them abreast of what we’re seeing, and we’ll continue as I said our regular testing protocol for those who aren’t in quarantine, and hopefully we don’t have any more positives and we’re able to get on the other side of this and then we can get everyone back in a situation where you can go compete again.”
ESPN’s Andrea Adelson and Mark Schlabach contributed to this report.