Scott Stricklin Q&A With Local Florida Gators Media

Scott Stricklin is working to guide the Florida Gators through a global pandemic. Photo Credit: Alex Shepherd

In a call that lasted just under an hour, Scott Stricklin sat in his office and steadily answered each and every question asked his way by local reporters. It was the first time since COVID-19 shut down sports in March that Stricklin had sat for a press conference with media. As such, there was a variety of topics to discuss. Everything from the likelihood of football being played in the fall, how COVID-19 is shaping decisions, social justice protest dictating UF decisions and more.

We’ve compiled the best and most important from the Stricklin interview for you to read here. It has been edited for length.

Check out the other pieces in GatorBait Magazine this week, taking a closer look at other topics discussed by Scott Stricklin.

On his level of optimism that there will be football in the fall:

“Candidly, we need to, we have a lot of challenges ahead of us. Look at the pro leagues—and obviously our state is hosting some of them right now—and I’m not inside their bubbles but just what you read that you guys and a lot of your colleagues report—that’s illustrative of the challenges they’re seeing. And I think in a perfect world we would look at the pro leagues as providing an opportunity for us to learn and time as you say may not be on our side now like it was a month or two ago. In a perfect world, Major League Baseball and NBA, those people would already be playing and we could sit back and learn from them. And hopefully they’ll get up going here pretty soon, we can have time to study what they’re doing.

“I think that’s really important from a college athletic standpoint that we take the opportunity to learn from what they do well and some struggles they have and maybe how we can do it better. Because we’re not gonna be able to create a bubble in college athletics. That’s, college athletics I know is very popular and it generates a lot of attention but it’s still an extracurricular activity on a college institution campus, an academic institution’s campus. And so there’s nothing about that that says bubble. Unless you wanna consider 35-36,000 undergrads a bubble. So we, the pro league’s are not an exact mirror of what we’re gonna be able to do but I do think their ability to get up successfully and compete will teach us some lessons. And the later we get in the fall and that is—without that happening, I think it really makes it more challenge for us.”

On what The Swamp capacity might look like if fans are allowed:

“We've had a portion of our staff spending a lot of time looking at various scenarios. None that are locked in stone by any means. But getting six feet apart in the Swamp does start to limit the number of people who can come in there, just because of the way it's designed. It is kind of cozy once you're in there, as you know, and there's 90,000 people. Again, this is where our friends at UF Health have been really helpful helping us model stuff and look at how potentially it could be. My guess is if you were looking at a strictly 6-foot social distancing scenario with fans in the Swamp you're looking at 15-20,000. Maybe you can get close to 25,000 fans, but it's a much different number than what we're accustomed to."

On the optics of possibly playing a season during a pandemic:

“I don't think we're going to put them in a situation where we're going to have bad optics. I think we're going to be careful enough. Really, that's our job. We want to win games and we want to create a great environment for 90,000 people to fill the Swamp in a normal situation. But our No. 1 job is to protect and provide an opportunity for these student-athletes, these 500 young people who come and are a part of our program. So I can see how if we were to rush into it, it could look bad. I don't think college football will do that."

On Power 5 conferences not yet wanting to make officially push the season to spring:

“I don’t wanna act like I’m espousing any one scenario because candidly there’s still a lot of information before we get to the point where we feel like we can conduct a game in a safe manner. But the best way to answer that is—as soon as we feel like we can provide a competitive opportunity for our athletes in a safe manner, we wanna do that. And I don’t know when that’s gonna be. None of know if and/or when the clouds are gonna part and the sun’s gonna shine and we’re gonna be able to provide that opportunity for our athletes. But whenever that occurs, we wanna be positioned to do so and so, um, you know doing that in the safest manner is our number one priority. If that’s September, great. If that’s a different month in the calendar that allows us to do it in this school year, I don’t think any of us are in a position to be choosy right now.”

On his message to the football team leadership committee:

“Last week I was able to get on a Zoom call with our football leadership committee. It’s a group of about 20 or so guys that are on the football team in leadership positions and asked Coach Mullen to put together. I wanted to hear from them about how they think the voluntary workouts went in the month of June and what their comfort level was related to how things had gone and just get their feedback. They were positive. It’s a great group, an impressive group of guys.

“I made a point to them during the call after I asked them some questions. I told them to make sure you guys understand the No. 1 priority for when we are able to begin having games again, is the health of our athletes and our staff and our fans. That’s the No. 1 priority. There’s a lot of talk out there about budgets and financial needs and all that stuff. It obviously helps support what we do in college athletics, but all of that is secondary to making sure that the health of our athletes, our staff and ultimately our fans is a priority. I wanted our players to hear that because I didn’t want them to see some of the stuff that’s out there on social media that may portray different priorities.

"That being the case, we have to balance the importance of their physical well being along with their mental well being. The thing I took from that and other conversations is, the student-athletes do want to play games. There’s a lot of challenges in front of right now in how we make that happen.”

On the environment UF is creating for their student athletes right now:

“Those who have come back for voluntary workouts, it’s been a pretty strict environment they’ve come back into. We’re doing temperature checks and we’re doing the health questionnaire, the screening. We’ve got masks on. They’re in a safe environment when they come up for their workouts and when they’re around our staff. One of the things that’s real important for all college athletic programs right now is all of our campuses have spent a lot of time on reopening plans. Most of these campuses are planning on having students back on campus this fall.It’s really important we do everything we can to support our campus reopening plans because, it’s the same reason that I think our campuses believe they can create a safe environment for our students if they are engaged with them.”

On how he’d characterize the current state of the situation and whether or not time is on their side:

“We’ve been able in the last few weeks to bring our athletes back—at their choosing, voluntarily, no one’s been forced to come back, they can come back on their own. Not all of them have, but a lot of them have. And we’ve had you know a pretty robust screening and testing program and we’ve found some positives and we’ve turned those over to local contact chasers and authorities and there’s a protocol that allows them to quarantined and cared for and provided for. So we’ve advanced from March to June as far as how we manage that and how we look at that.

“I think having them here on campus for a month has taught us a lot. One of the things it’s taught us is we do have a way to care for them and provide for our athletes while they’re here and if they happen to test positive. The other thing though is that, I think it’s really pointed out what a lot of the challenges are gonna be related to quarantining. Quarantining healthy people who have had exposure to those who have tested positive and how wide spread that’s gonna be. And we’re supportive of that because we understand that’s what the health officials—that’s a tool the health officials have to help prevent further spread, so we’re totally in support of that. But I do think it speaks to some of the challenges to try to get them to the point where we’re competing in national games.”

On if he’s given any thought to renaming the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in light of social justice reform :

“No. Dr. Fuchs when he made his announcement last month he referenced putting a panel together to start reviewing university namings. The O'Connell Center is actually a university facility, we're just a tenant in it. The university actually controls that building. So I'm not assuming what facilities is going to fall under the purview of that group he puts together. But I know he has a plan in place to try to look at the ones that need to be looked at and addressed. I think Kent has shown a lot of leadership in this area and not just in the last month or two. I think during his time at UF, he has shown good leadership in this area and is something that I support the decisions that he’s made.”

Check out the other pieces in GatorBait Magazine this week, taking a closer look at other topics discussed by Scott Stricklin.

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