Florida pauses team activities due to COVID-19 after Dan Mullen calls for fans to ‘pack The Swamp’

It took roughly 24,000 fans for Florida coach Dan Mullen to abandon reason following his team’s 41-38 loss to Texas A&M on Saturday.

The third-year Gators coach spent a decent portion of his postgame news conference lamenting how Kyle Field — at roughly 23 percent capacity — affected his team in its first loss of the season. In the same breath, he hoped aloud that Florida could “pack The Swamp” with 90,000 fans for the Gators’ ensuing game against LSU, even though the state of Florida is among the most affected by COVID-19 in the U.S.

And now, this: The Gators on Tuesday paused all team activities “out of an abundance of caution” after five players tested positive for the coronavirus. Payton Titus, online editor for AlligatorSports.com, cited sources who said that number could total as many as 19 players.

MORE: Every Power 5 postponed for Week 7 because of COVID-19

Per Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin:

“The University of Florida football team has experienced an increase in positive COVID tests among players this week. Out of an abundance of caution, team activities are paused as of Tuesday afternoon.


Head coach Dan Mullen has been in communication with football players and their parents, and I have had conversations with the Southeastern Conference office, last week’s opponent Texas A&M, and this week’s opponent LSU.


These circumstances will be re-evaluated by UF Health and the athletic department’s sports medicine staff Wednesday.”

Tuesday’s news makes Mullen’s previous comments that much worse. As irresponsible as his Saturday statements were, he doubled down on them Monday by refusing several times to backtrack or clarify his remarks, saying he was focused instead on preparing for the Tigers.

“Yeah, I’ve been preparing for LSU. But, I mean, I’ll be honest,” Mullen said Monday (via ESPN). “I think if you look at what we’ve been able to do, the safety precautions we have that our players have followed, our coaches follow, our staff follows, you know, I think we’re a model of safety of what we’ve been doing during this time period.”

If Tuesday’s news isn’t the wake-up call he needed amid this COVID-19 pandemic, then nothing short of a canceled season will keep him from spewing nonsense about packing fans into Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Because if his players — who undoubtedly are subject to more stringent protocols than the average person — can contract the coronavirus, there’s no telling what damage could be done by 90,000 fans.

Thankfully, cooler heads at the University of Florida rejected Mullen’s plea on Sunday, saying the school would continue to follow CDC and state health guidelines after Gov. Ron DeSantis lifted such restrictions for the state’s sports teams. To date, none of Florida’s other sports organizations has allowed full capacity at events.

That’s as it should be. Now Mullen can get back to his job: preparing for a game that, as of Tuesday, may not be played because of the virus he so casually downplayed.

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