ATLANTA — For the second time this week, the Southeastern Convention has postponed a school soccer sport due to the coronavirus pandemic, unnerving the league lower than a month into its season and escalating the risk to one of many South’s financial and cultural juggernauts.
The choice to postpone Saturday’s sport between No. 10 Florida and Louisiana State got here after 21 gamers at Florida examined constructive for the virus. The college’s athletic director, Scott Stricklin, stated Wednesday that the take a look at outcomes had been central to why the Gators would have had fewer than 50 scholarship gamers accessible for the sport in Gainesville, Fla., beneath the league’s 53-man threshold. At the very least two assistant coaches additionally examined constructive for the virus.
“We’ve reached a degree the place we don’t assume it’s acceptable that we attempt to play the sport this weekend,” stated Stricklin, who added that soccer actions at Florida had been suspended indefinitely.
Since August, 29 video games within the Soccer Bowl Subdivision, faculty soccer’s premier tier, have been canceled or postponed due to the pandemic. Earlier than the choice on Wednesday, two different high-profile video games that had been deliberate for this weekend had been postponed due to will increase in virus instances: a Large 12 Convention matchup between Baylor and Oklahoma State and an SEC sport between Missouri and Vanderbilt.
Officers stated Wednesday that it was not clear whether or not Florida’s subsequent sport, a contest towards Missouri, would happen as deliberate on Oct. 24. The L.S.U. sport, although, was tentatively rescheduled for Dec. 12, every week earlier than the league championship sport. Florida, presently second in its division, could possibly be in rivalry to play in that sport.
Florida officers consider their group’s outbreak could possibly be linked to final weekend’s journey to Faculty Station, Texas, the place the Gators narrowly misplaced to Texas A&M. Stricklin stated Wednesday that some gamers had gentle signs — congestion, headache and the like — throughout the journey, however attributed them to allergic reactions and didn’t inform the group’s medical workers about any issues.
Stricklin stated he discovered early Monday that some gamers had reported signs. He stated the college had moved to each day virus testing for its soccer program.
The postponement was a landmark in a convulsive 96-hour stretch for Florida that prompted questions on its dedication to public well being. On Saturday, after the Gators misplaced in Texas, Coach Dan Mullen stated he wished Florida directors to make the most of the easing of his state’s virus restrictions and permit followers to “pack the Swamp,” as Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is thought. (College leaders balked at Mullen’s stress and held to their plans to permit about 17,000 followers, roughly 20 % of the stadium’s capability, at video games in Gainesville.)
On Monday, the day Stricklin discovered of the group’s mounting troubles, Mullen described Florida’s soccer program as “a mannequin of security” throughout the pandemic. Tuesday yielded phrase that Florida had paused soccer actions due to “a rise” in virus instances, and on Wednesday, hours earlier than the postponement was made official, Mullen backtracked and apologized for his statements concerning the potential dimension of Swamp crowds.
“No matter our well being officers permit us to have in, that’s what we need to have within the stadium to maintain all people protected and wholesome,” stated Mullen, who added that he wished to “create an unbelievable surroundings for our gamers and create power inside the stadium.”
The SEC opened its conference-only slate on Sept. 26, and till this week, it had averted schedule disruptions. However the league’s commissioner, Greg Sankey, irritated by conspicuous violations of well being protocols on the sidelines, has been warning coaches and athletic administrators in latest weeks concerning the potential derailment of a season that has drawn some criticism for going down in any respect.
“Don’t loosen up — and don’t let these round you loosen up — due to a number of weeks of success,” Sankey wrote in a memo on Wednesday of final week. “Eleven weeks stay till the SEC Soccer Championship Recreation in Atlanta, with a postseason to observe, and we’ll must be absolutely attentive on daily basis to achieve the target of a wholesome and full season.”
Every week later, two of the seven video games the league had deliberate for this Saturday had been off.