Florida Gators head coach Dan Mullen isn't the type to offer specifics when it relates to off-the-field activities and his football team.
The elephant in the room in Hoover, (Ala.), however, is the outlook for college football in the age of COVID-19. Vaccinations for the virus are widespread and available, but the Southeastern Conference wants more shots in arms.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey shared at SEC Media Days on Monday that just six of the conference's 14 teams have reached an 80 percent vaccination threshold to this point. The SEC will not require regular coronavirus testing nor mask requirements inside school facilities for teams that are at or above the 85 percent rate this season.
Mullen shared that the Gators are not one of the six teams over the hump, but without sharing data, he acknowledged that Florida is getting close.
"We're doing very well with that," Mullen told reporters. "I'm not going to get into that right now, but we are at a pretty high number of vaccinated players right now... We're getting close to the threshold numbers that you need to be at."
Florida experienced a COVID-19 breakout across its team following its week three loss to Texas A&M in 2020, which led to postponing its following matchups against LSU and Missouri. Mullen himself tested positive for coronavirus at that time. Mullen has also since been fully vaccinated.
According to a UF communications update on December 15, 2020, the program conducted 3,866 COVID-19 tests across the football team from the student-athletes May 26 return to campus through that update. A total of 69 positive results were uncovered in that stretch.
As his Media Day podium time continued, Sankey went on to identify the possibility of forfeiting games instead of postponements and rescheduling matchups as a product of new health and safety protocols.
“You hope not to have disruption, but hope is not a plan is the great cliche,” Sankey said. “We still have roster minimums that exist, just like last year. What I’ve identified for consideration among our membership is we remove those roster minimums and you’re expected to play as scheduled. That means your team needs to be healthy to compete, and if not, that game won’t be rescheduled.
"Thus, to dispose of the game, the forfeit word comes up at this point," Sankey continued. "That’s not a policy, and what you see now are the bookends about decision-making.”
In which case, Florida would benefit from soon reaching the 85 percent mark for team-wide vaccination rates before the 2021 season begins. As the Gators look to repeat as the SEC East Champion and to take the next step - winning the conference championship - Florida can not afford to potentially forfeit games as they would have needed to under the current rules were they in place a year ago.
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