Athletic Director Scott Stricklin didn’t mince words when talking about safety.
“The number one priority for when we are able to begin having games again is the health of our athletes and our staff and our fans,” he said.
Stricklin held a press conference Tuesday that dealt with the state of UF athletics in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A fall football season seems to be up in the air at best, especially with the Big Ten and Pac-12 announcing last week that it would play a conference-only schedule, with the ACC saying it is considering doing the same.
Though the SEC athletic directors met in Birmingham, Alabama, on Monday to discuss fall sports, no decision was made. The SEC said that will be made in late July, but the conference canceled all volleyball and soccer games and cross country races through the end of August on Tuesday.
The pandemic hits close to home for Stricklin, who revealed he tested positive for COVID-19 after feeling mild symptoms. He said he felt congested and had a runny nose with a slight headache. The next day, he woke up and felt slight chills before deciding to get tested.
“I thought I was being careful, but obviously this is a highly transmittable disease,” Stricklin said. “Hopefully, we can help keep others safe during this process by doing our part.”
He also noted that, while the collegiate sports world is looking at the approaches taken by professional leagues to reduce risk while returning to play, it’s not possible to replicate it with student-athletes.
“Candidly, we have a lot of challenges ahead of us,” he said. “Time, as you say, might not be on our side. We’re not going to be able to make a bubble in college athletics.”
He made it clear that he wants to have sports played, but only as soon as it is safe to do so.
“We need to find a path that allows our athletes a safe environment to compete,” he said.
While the Gators had initially three positive tests among 188 tests during the first return to campus across all sports, it has since increased to a total of 29 positive tests out of 238 tests. According to Stricklin, the additional 26 positives came from 50 tests of athletes where it was suspected they had the virus or were showing symptoms.
Stricklin is also hopeful that, if a safe environment can be created to play sports, fans would be allowed in the stands.
“My guess is, if you were looking at a strictly six-foot social-distancing scenario with fans in the Swamp, you're looking at 15-20,000,” he said. “Maybe you can get close to 25,000 fans, but it's a much different number than what we're accustomed to."
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