The Sunshine Showdown between UF and FSU has seen many thrilling finishes and matchups over the years, but for the first time since 1958, the two teams will not do battle this season.
The SEC announced a move to a 10-game schedule featuring exclusively conference opponents on Thursday in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The move follows similar decisions from the Big Ten, Pac-12 and the ACC.
"The safety of our student-athletes, staff and fans will remain the top priority as we navigate the return to collegiate athletic competition," UF athletics director Scott Stricklin said in a release. "We will continue to lean on the advice of the SEC Medical Task Force, UF Health, CDC, Campus and state health officials as we develop safety protocols and stadium capacity guidelines."
The start of the season was pushed back to Sept. 26 and the conference championship game was moved back two weeks to Dec. 19.
“Once you start looking at starting late September, there was a consensus that we wanted to play 10 conference games, you start really impacting the number of opportunities you have to play those games,” Stricklin said in a Zoom press conference. “You have 11 Saturdays left to play 10 conference games, we ran out of Saturdays.”
The SEC will keep its two-division format, but the Gators’ extra two conference opponents have not been decided.
“I don’t know what that’s going to look like,” Stricklin said. “At the end of the day, we’ll play whoever they put in front of us, and I’m confident our team will be excited about the opportunity.”
Aside from the matchup with the Seminoles, Florida will also lose three more out-of-conference opponents this year. UF’s games with Eastern Washington, South Alabama and New Mexico State will be canceled.
Stricklin said that he talked to the athletic directors of those schools and that they may reschedule those games. He also stated that he and Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity want to keep the Florida-Georgia game in Jacksonville this season.
“He and I are both of the opinion that if we’re able to get to the point where we play that game we’d like to play it in Jacksonville,” Stricklin said. “The benefit there is that that’s a stadium that will have hosted NFL games and will have whatever protocol needs to be in place.”
Follow River Wells on Twitter @riverhwells and contact him at [email protected]
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