Florida’s Mullen backtracks on packing stadium

  • Covers the SEC.
  • Joined ESPN in 2012.
  • Graduate of Auburn University.

Florida football coach Dan Mullen backtracked on his call to “pack The Swamp” for Saturday’s game against LSU, saying the school should follow the recommendations of local health officials to determine a safe number of fans to allow at games.

“Whatever our local health officials come out and say, ‘This is the number of people that we’re going to allow at the game right now,’ that I want to encourage those people to come in, bring the energy, bring the excitement in the stadium and help our team to win,” Mullen said Wednesday.

Mullen, after losing at Texas A&M last weekend, said the crowd had an impact on the game and that he would like to see 100% capacity at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, citing a recent decision by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to lift COVID-19 restrictions that had limited the size of public gatherings.

He said his initial statement wasn’t intended to be a demand for increased attendance.

“I certainly apologize if I offended people,” he said.

Mullen’s comments came on the heels of his program shutting down on Tuesday after returning a number of positive COVID-19 tests.

A total of 19 people have tested positive over the past several days, a source confirmed to ESPN. On Wednesday, Mullen said that two assistants have tested positive but that both were asymptomatic.

While LSU coach Ed Orgeron said he wouldn’t be surprised if Saturday’s game was canceled as a result of the viral outbreak at Florida, Mullen wouldn’t speculate on what might happen.

Mullen said everyone on the team was tested again early Wednesday morning and that the team would determine its next course of action after those tests are returned.

“As we get more numbers, we’re getting a better idea of trying to trace the origins of it,” Mullen said. “We have not been able to do that.”

He added: “I would still not be surprised if one or two of them were random, and the randoms can throw you off within the [contact] tracing.”

Mullen said he expects a final decision on Wednesday about whether the Gators will be able to play Saturday’s game against LSU.

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