Remember when New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said "We're on to Cincinnati", following an unusual 41-14 blowout loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in 2014?
Gators head coach Dan Mullen said something of the sort on Monday.
Mullen faced national criticism for his post-game comments after Saturday's 41-38 road loss to Texas A&M, where he suggested the University of Florida should "pack the Swamp" to full capacity (88,548) for the team's next game against LSU. Mullen credited the crowd of 24,709, as reported by ESPN, for being a factor in the game, which Florida lost on a clock-expiring field goal.
Mullen dismissed a chance to walk back his statements on Saturday when asked to clarify. Pressed further about his comments in a press conference on Monday, Mullen said that he had yet not spoken with the administration about the comments and was unaware of any backlash he created.
"Yeah, I've been preparing for LSU," said Mullen. "But, I mean I'll be honest, 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."
The Gators have done a good job of containing the coronavirus within their athletic department since athletes began returning in May - of course, the nature of the pandemic is what led to controversy regarding Mullen's plea. Florida has seen two flare-ups - one shortly after athletes returned in the summer and again when the student body returned for the fall semester - that were each contained swiftly and didn't cause any major scheduling issues.
Florida also hosted 15,120 fans for the home-opener against South Carolina with protocols enforced for social distancing and mask-wearing. It's unknown as to if that event caused any spread of the coronavirus, but the consequences of a larger-scale event that couldn't follow social distancing guidelines could be severe.
Athletic director Scott Stricklin told the Orlando Sentinel that he had "not heard anything about campus adjusting [its] guidelines" on attendance following Mullen's comments.
Mullen was asked further if he understood the risks a packed stadium presents. Much like on Saturday, Mullen pointed to Florida's governing body entering Phase 3 of pandemic recovery, which allows stadiums to return to full capacity despite the lack of a vaccine or cure for COVID-19 being readily available.
"I haven't talked to people because I've been really focused on trying to beat LSU," said Mullen. "But, you know, whatever our government officials all say and what everybody does for the game, what we do need to do is however many people they allow into the stadium, we need to try to work as hard as we can - all the Gator fans and all of us - to create the best game-day atmosphere we can."
UF has given its fanbase a reason to trust its response to coronavirus outbreaks within the athletic department, and the university undoubtedly deserves credit for that. The root of the issue, however, is the tone-deafness of pleading for a home-field advantage in the middle of a global crisis - and then brushing it off.
"No, I've been on LSU."