ATHENS — Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said his staff and players didn’t need any COVID-19 reminders, but Wednesday’s news out of Tuscaloosa was eye-opening.
“This certainly sends a message, everybody better pay attention,” McGarity told DawgNation on Wednesday night. “We hope everyone gets well.”
Alabama coach Nick Saban and Tide athletic director Greg Byrne announced they have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, leaving many to wonder what could possibly come next.
“It definitely is a wake-up call,” UGA leading receiver Kearis Jackson said. “We’ll just have to continue doing the right things here and wearing our masks.”
The No. 3-ranked Bulldogs (3-0) are scheduled to play the No. 2-ranked Tide (3-0) at 8 p.m. on Saturday in Tuscaloosa (TV: CBS).
McGarity said Georgia is continuing its normal operations leading up to the game.
“Our protocol here remains in place,” said McGarity, whose team is scheduled to leave Athens on Friday. “We test Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. We continue to follow the plans that we’ve worked on and have had in place.”
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey had a similar message, according to Yahoo reporter Pete Thamel.
“We’re still moving forward,” Sankey said. “We have testing Thursday and results on Friday. I describe that as the ‘hold your breath’ moments. We’ll continue forward.”
The LSU-Florida and Vanderbilt-Missouri games that were scheduled for this Saturday have already been postponed to Dec. 12 — one week before the scheduled SEC Championship Game in Atlanta — on account of positive COVID-19 tests.
The league built in Dec. 12 as an open week with the possibility of COVID-19 postponements in place.
“Let’s hope there are no multiple games teams have to miss,” McGarity said. “You do plan for things like this.
“We all address it as SEC athletic directors and we know the consequences when the virus strikes.”
Indeed, and that’s why McGarity and Georgia were proactive leading into the Bulldogs’ home game last Saturday against Tennessee, sending out notifications to students with tickets to the game.
The week before, with Auburn in Sanford Stadium, photos surfaced of the UGA student section not adhering to social distancing guidelines.
“We sent constant messages, as we were able to target the 3,000-plus students who had tickets for the game and educate them,” McGarity said. “We also stepped up our social distancing enforcement and monitoring.
“We were extremely pleased with the Tennessee game operations, and our students were exceptional, we did not have any problems with social distancing that game.”
Georgia coach Kirby Smart has been pleased with how responsible his players have been following the team’s COVID-19 policy.
But Smart made reference on Wednesday as to just how unpredictable the COVID-19 virus can be and how it continues to lurk.
“The biggest thing is you’re one day way, one test away, one situation away from a possible situation like Florida’s,” Smart said. “We’ve been very fortunate.”
The SEC established roster guidelines regarding COVID-19 last month.
SEC COVID-19 Guidelines
To play a football game, the SEC has established minimum thresholds of at least 53 scholarship players available to participate and the following minimum number of position scholarship players available to begin a game:
• seven (7) offensive linemen (which includes one center),
• one (1) quarterback
• four (4) defensive linemen.
The impacted institution has the option to play the game with fewer than the 53 scholarship players or fewer than the minimum number of position players listed above if it elects to do so. Otherwise, upon approval by the Commissioner, the game would be rescheduled or declared a no contest.