My first thought after reading this lengthy Kevin Scarbinsky genuflection to Greg Sankey over the cancellation of the Florida-LSU game was simple: if this is such a fabulous decision, why are Georgia and South Carolina playing?
The reality is that Sankey has been little more than an observer here, leaving it up to the administrations of the host schools to figure out a course of action. That’s why we learned about the game in Columbia being moved to Sunday not from the league office, or even through a joint announcement from the schools’ athletic directors, but from Will Muschamp on his radio show. But at least Sankey was nodding in the background.
“Due to the potential impact of the hurricane on Columbia and the surrounding area, it is in the best interest of safety to play the game on Sunday rather than Saturday night,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement. “I appreciate the cooperation of the schools who worked closely to make the appropriate operational adjustments in order to accomodate this change in the schedule.”
If there’s one thing Georgia knows how to do, it’s accommodate, so there’s little surprise there. And, honestly, it’s not as if the game has much impact on the regular season, other than making sure local Columbia merchants don’t miss a pay day, although you can’t help but wonder how many folks who will attend the game are planning on staying in town and spending money this weekend. But the show must go on, I suppose.
Everything I just said about Columbia seems to be thrown out the door in Gainesville, though, as Jeremy Foley had a very specific idea about how to resolve the situation and was willing to take his ball and go home if LSU wouldn’t agree to go along with him.
Well, at least Foley asked.
It’s not an easy fix.
The league said it will work with both universities to reschedule the game later in the season, if possible.
The schools have different opinions on how it should be handled, and ultimately the league will decide.
The 18th-ranked Gators (4-1, 2-1 SEC) ideally would like to play the game Nov. 19 in Gainesville, a scenario that doesn’t seem very attractive for the Tigers.
Florida and LSU each play nonconference games at home that Saturday and would need to buy out those opponents, South Alabama for the Tigers and Presbyterian for the Gators. LSU (3-2, 2-1) would be on the hook for $1.5 million to South Alabama, and Florida would have to pay $500,000 to Presbyterian of the Football Championship Subdivision.
Doing that would mean the Tigers would end the regular season with three consecutive road games — against Arkansas (Nov. 12), Florida (Nov. 19) and Texas A&M (Nov. 24).
“We told the league we’re 100 percent committed to whatever scenario they can come up with,” Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said. “Certainly we don’t have a consistent open date. … It’s not as easy sometimes as it seems and involves other games, it involves other teams, it involves television contracts, whatever have you.
“Whatever scenario they come up with, we’re going to be in favor of. We want to play the football game.”
LSU would rather not play three straight league games on the road, especially considering the last one, against the Aggies, is during a shortened week. It also would mean giving up a home game and losing revenue for the school and the city.
“I haven’t come to a decision on that yet, but it would be pretty damn tough to play on the 19th and then play A&M on Thursday, so I’ve got to do what’s in the best interest of the team,” LSU athletic director Joe Alleva said.
The Tigers are likely to push for a cancellation of the game.
Commissioner, meet your rock and your hard place.
Oh, yeah, let’s not forget there’s another potential actor here.
The biggest question surrounding the game if it’s not made up would be how it affects the SEC standings. If either team wins out, there could be potential ramifications for Auburn, Tennessee and maybe others. The SEC said Thursday that a team that finishes 6-1 in league play would go to the conference title game over a 6-2 team even if the 6-2 won a head-to-head matchup.
“They have to play that football game,” Volunteers coach Butch Jones said. “I know the SEC will do the right thing.”
Booch, I find your faith disturbing. I guarantee you that Sankey’s Plan A right now is to hope fervently that Florida loses another conference game. I’m a Georgia fan, so obviously my preference would be for the Dawgs to bail the commissioner out, but there’s a part of me that would love to see Sankey flop around having to deal with the potential mess.
It’ll be even worse if nothing is worked out before the end of the regular season. Let’s face it: despite Foley’s assurances that Florida wants to play the LSU game, why in the world would he be motivated to meet the conference and LSU half way if that would mean risking a division title? I sure wouldn’t and I don’t see how Sankey can force him to.
Speaking of being a Georgia fan, there’s one other little tidbit to keep in mind. With the cancellation, the Gators now have two bye weeks in the time leading up to the Cocktail Party. That sound you hear in the background is Steve Spurrier, cackling.
Heck of a job, Sankey.
UPDATE: More on this from And The Valley Shook’s Billy Gomila.