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Florida Gators say spring football game would be ‘unwise,’ cancel annual exhibition

Athletic director Scott Stricklin explained the university’s decision Tuesday.
The Florida Gators won't be participating in a traditional spring game this year.
The Florida Gators won't be participating in a traditional spring game this year. [ Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Feb. 16
Updated Feb. 16

The Florida Gators won’t be having their annual spring game for the second year in a row because of the coronavirus pandemic.

UF will hold its first spring practice Thursday and could have a spring game, as both USF and Florida State plan to do.

“However, hosting fans for an intra-squad spring scrimmage seems unwise given all circumstances, including the fact that Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is being used as a large scale COVID testing and vaccination site,” UF athletic director Scott Stricklin said.

This is the second year in a row without a Gators spring exhibition. Last year’s contest and UF’s entire slate of spring practices were called off in the early days of the coronavirus shutdown.

Coach Dan Mullen sees pros and cons to spring games, in general. He called them a celebration, for players to see fans and for fans to learn some of the new or younger players who will emerge next season.

“The thing you probably lose is some of the pressure,” Mullen said. “It will be the first time some of these guys take snaps in front of a big crowd. ... So to go play on that stage, I think, is a big plus.”

But the exhibitions usually come with a negative, too. Mullen said teams can probably be more productive with another scrimmage than with the hoopla of a spring game.

“There’s going to be a big plus to that of getting some more things accomplished in that scrimmage than you normally would in a spring game, which is kind of a little bit more of an exhibition showcase,” Mullen said.