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Florida's game vs. LSU postponed after Gators' coronavirus outbreak

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Two SEC games won’t be played as scheduled on Saturday.

The SEC announced Wednesday that No. 10 Florida’s game against LSU would be postponed after a coronavirus outbreak among Florida players and coaches. The Gators said Tuesday that they were pausing all football activities because of the outbreak.

The game is tentatively set to be played Dec. 12.

Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin said Wednesday that 18 scholarship players and three walk-ons had tested positive for coronavirus. Because of contact tracing and quarantines for close contacts with those players, Stricklin said that the team would have fewer than 50 scholarship players available for a game on Saturday.

Florida coach Dan Mullen also said Wednesday that Florida players began testing positive on Sunday, a day after the Gators played at Texas A&M. That means that Florida players and even staffers could have been contagious during that game in College Station. Texas A&M has not announced any positive tests this week.

Stricklin said that he had a suspicion that the team’s trip to A&M could have been the cause of the outbreak. He also noted that a couple of players who are among the group that have tested positive had experienced allergy-like symptoms before the trip but did not report them. Two assistant coaches have also tested positive for coronavirus but are asymptomatic.

The postponement of the Gators and Tigers game means that there will be at least two SEC regular season games on Dec. 12. The conference moved Saturday’s scheduled game between Vanderbilt and Missouri to Dec. 12 on Monday because Vanderbilt wouldn’t meet the player availability minimum due to positive coronavirus tests and contact tracing.

If Florida and Missouri can’t play on Oct. 24 because players are still unavailable, it’s unclear when that game would be played.

The potential for postponed games is why the SEC said the conference’s title game would be on Dec. 19 — two weeks after the scheduled end of the season.

The loss of Florida and LSU off Saturday’s schedule is a big blow for ESPN’s weekend coverage. The game was the network’s marquee game of the week as No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 3 Georgia is on CBS. And it’s the second big game that ESPN has lost this weekend. No. 7 Oklahoma State and Baylor were set to play Saturday night on ABC before their game was postponed to Dec. 12.

Mullen apologizes for wanting a full stadium

Mullen said earlier Wednesday that he was sorry for his comments advocating for a full stadium in the middle of a pandemic after the Gators’ loss to Texas A&M. Mullen said that he had “tremendous respect” for public health officials and that he was sorry if he had offended anyone with his advocacy for a packed stadium.

Stricklin was asked Wednesday afternoon following the postponement about Mullen’s comments on Saturday and Monday.

“I think based on his comments today that he respects the importance of listening to the medical professionals,” Stricklin said with a smile. “Coaches sometimes say things that are outside their area of expertise and they’re really good at what they do. Dan is really good at calling plays.

“I’ll share a story with you. I mentioned Dr. Mike Lauzardo earlier. I had a conversation with him yesterday and he said, ‘Hey, since Coach Mullen is now getting into public health policy, can I call some plays?’ So I told him that I’d make a deal. Going forward Dan will focus on calling plays and we’ll let Dr. Lauzardo focus on the public health policy.”

BATON ROUGE, LA - OCTOBER 12: The Florida Gators defense lines up for a play during a game between the Florida Gators and the LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on October 12, 2019. (Photo by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Florida and LSU will now play on Dec. 12. (Photo by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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