GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University Athletic Association’s first meeting of the Return to Campus Plan committee was back on March 9. That was four days before the country — and with it, the sports world — shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The committee, of course, didn’t shut down. In fact, it met weekly over the next six months, all the while taking in information and formulating a plan that will be in place Saturday when the third-ranked Gators face South Carolina in the first home football game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium of the 2020 season.
Chip Howard, the UAA’s executive associate athletic director for internal affairs, took members of the media on a stadium tour Tuesday to explain the various safety protocols — developed in conjunction with UF Health, the Southeastern Conference and its Medical Guidance Task Force — that will be in place for the game’s 20-percent attendance capacity using physical distancing throughout the facility.
“We want the people who come in here to feel safe, comfortable and confident,” Howard said. “Safety is our No. 1 priority.”
Florida fans will notice a difference instantly Saturday morning, with overnight parking and tailgating prohibited on the campus this fall.