Florida Ducked LSU, and The SEC is Rightfully PISSED
I am not making light of Hurricane Matthew, and am not (intentionally) showing my bias.
As has been discussed throughout SEC country this week, Florida and LSU failed to play a football game last weekend. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley mandated that the Georgia/South Carolina game not happen on Saturday, and it was played on a beautiful Sunday. Notre Dame/N.C. State and Virginia Tech/UNC were played in torrential downpours. And every model had the games right in the Carolinas by Saturday.
So why didn’t the Florida/LSU game happen, and what happens if it (likely doesn’t) happen later?
It is abundantly clear that LSU was down to play this game. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, they moved a game from Baton Rouge to Tempe. The Tigers had a game with Tennessee move to a Monday to avoid another storm. Oh, and just last year, they agreed with South Carolina to play a game in Baton Rouge and donate all proceeds to flooding relief victims. Suffice it to say, they’ve been down this road before.
Florida, too, has been in this situation, as lightning caused their 2014 showdown with Idaho to be delayed, delayed, and finally cancelled. That’s fine, LSU cancelled a game with McNeese State for similar reasons last year.
BUT LSU MADE EVERY EFFORT TO PLAY THIS GAME.
Tigers AD Joe Alleva came out on the offensive in the wake of Thursday’s cancellation, stating that overtures had been made to play the game in Gainesville earlier or later in the day or week. No dice. In Baton Rouge? No, Florida found that unfair. In Mobile? Birmingham? Nashville? New Orleans? No, no, no, and no.
Even from an outside (and again, unbiased) perspective, Jeremy Foley stonewalled until arrangements to play this game wouldn’t happen.
Ironically, safety was the issue. I say ‘ironically’, because his solution kept his players in Gainesville, and because his ‘solution’ is to have LSU play three straight road games in 12 days at the end of the season.
Oh, and in the process take away the home game revenue of LSU’s last home game, Nov. 19, against South Alabama. You may recall that Baton Rouge had some flooding this summer, and their economy is in need of a home game. From Steven Godfrey’s article on the matter:
“I’d say for restaurants like ours in the community, it’s upwards of a $100,000 loss in sales compared to a normal Friday through Sunday,” said Ruffin Rodrigue, a former LSU player and owner of Ruffino’s restaurant in Baton Rouge.
“Of that number, a lot of that is money going directly to our employees, most of whom are coming off the flood. We’re trying to catch up right now. This is the last home game of the season. It’s senior night. That means it’s a homecoming for a lot of fans and families.”
His Ruffino’s location took on no water in the flood, but the Lafayette location did. A 9 p.m. post-flood curfew killed business across the city for almost a month.
“We were open for those three weeks, but no one could get here. The streets were flooded. Our sales went down 80 percent. But hey, still gotta pay your taxes and insurance, except there’s no cash coming in. So, everyone got really, really hurt. We need these home games to make good,” Rodrigue said.
“These home games are critical to getting our head above water, so to speak.”
So, we’re all in agreement that Florida has the egg on its face here, right?
Well, so does the SEC.
Mike Slive was critical in getting the aforementioned games to happen, as the SEC rules state that the commissioner can act as a facilitator to make agreeable concessions in incidents such as this. Greg Sankey? 0 for 1. By not taking a hard stance with Foley on LSU’s reasonable compromises, a failure in leadership up top throws the whole SEC season’s validity into question, because…
What could this impact?
The. Whole. Damn. SEC. Race.
As currently constituted, Florida and LSU will finish with 7 SEC games each. At 2-1, Florida’s remaining path includes Mizzou, Georgia, Arkansas and South Carolina. Logically played out, Florida should finish that schedule at 6-1, with a lone loss to Tennessee.
Tennessee, you ask? Oh, they play Bama this week. They finish with an easier schedule than that, but one can assume they finish 6-2.
Your SEC East champion based on the SEC’s rules? The Florida Gators.
You could run a similar hypothetical in the West, but its hard to see LSU going through Ole Miss, Alabama, Texas A&M, and Arkansas unscathed. (Although, COACH O!)
With its most daunting challenge ahead, and its starting quarterback out, Florida made zero effort to make this game happen. Until it was cancelled. Then, they leaned on Sankey to make something happen. These things included:
- Asking Georgia to move the Cocktail Party up a week so they could host LSU on Oct. 29. Jacksonville declined.
- Asking Texas A&M to move their Thanksgiving tilt with LSU to Thanksgiving Saturday, thus giving LSU a week’s rest between three tough road games. Both A&M and LSU declined.
- All of this, too, assuming that LSU would sacrifice its Senior Day game, pay off South Alabama (guarantee: $1.5 million), and come to Gainesville on Nov. 21. Florida’s guarantee for Presbyterian, by the way? $500,000.
To Foley’s credit, he is going out with a bang. He has yet to make one concession that would risk the Florida Gators football team, which I guess is his job. In so doing, though, he has undermined the SEC offices and pissed off every member institution in the conference.
Goddamnit, I hate Florida.