COVID-19 makes presence felt in football schedule

Published 9:19 pm Wednesday, October 14, 2020

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As COVID-19 makes its presence felt in the SEC, Alabama continues to see cases increase.

The state added 784 new cases on Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases to 167,977 since tracking began. Of those, 147,746 are confirmed and 20,232 are probable, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health update.

Pike County added four cases overnight Tuesday, bringing the total to 1,284 cases: 980 confirmed and 304 probable, with 12 deaths.

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At Troy University, another three students reported positive tests on Wednesday, bringing the total number of students testing positive since Aug. 3 to more than 500.

The Southeastern Conference had to postpone two games in the last three days because of positive COVID-19 tests, and now Alabama coach Nick Saban and his athletic director have tested positive for the virus ahead of the league’s biggest regular-season showdown.

Saban said in a statement Wednesday that he’ll be working from home with offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian overseeing the second-ranked Crimson Tide’s preparations to play No. 3 Georgia on Saturday night.

“At this time, I do not have any symptoms relative to COVID, and I have taken another PCR test to confirm my diagnosis,” said Saban, whose AD Greg Byrne also tested positive.

No. 10 Florida’s game against defending national champion LSU was postponed Wednesday to tentatively Dec. 12 after the SEC postponed Missouri-Vanderbilt on Monday. More positive tests could derail other games after the league waited until the end of September to kick off the season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Gators started testing daily Sunday and paused activities Tuesday after 19 positives with about a dozen more quarantined through contract tracing. Athletic director Scott Stricklin said they had 18 positives among scholarship players plus three walk-ons for a total of 21.

That left the Gators with less than 50 scholarship players available. Stricklin said it can sneak up on a team in a hurry and the key is hitting the brake.

“The SEC schedule was set up with something with an event like this in mind,” Stricklin said. “As much as we want to give our kids the opportunity to compete, we understand this isn’t a normal year and we’re going to have to have the ability to adapt to unusual circumstances such as this.”

Florida is hoping those numbers don’t rise further, not that coach Dan Mullen wanted to speculat e on the tests.

“We’re certainly hoping and everybody that we’ve worked for getting these tests back before we conduct any team activity to make sure that we’re keeping everyone as safe as possible,” Mullen said.