Scott Rabalais’ last look at the Florida-LSU scheduling debacle makes me want to flesh out a couple of points I made in the quick reaction I posted last night.
… There’s no reason that this Thursday’s solution could not have been reached last Thursday.
Last Thursday, Florida was painting everyone into a corner with a hard hit from Matthew looking like a grim possibility for Gainesville. This after, during talks among the schools and the SEC on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, Florida was adamant that the game could be played there last Saturday.
No contingencies were apparently considered, like the ones offered by LSU to play Sunday or Monday in Gainesville, or to move the game to Tiger Stadium on either of those days or Saturday. Florida wanted no part of it — not because it wanted to duck LSU but out of sheer stubbornness, and the SEC didn’t twist a Gator arm.
There are two reasons this situation came to a head. One, SEC rules allow a single athletic director to cancel a conference game, but requires the approval of both athletic directors to reschedule the meeting. Two, Greg Sankey took a hands off approach in managing the problems created by Hurricane Matthew and left it up to the athletic directors to solve on their own.
Sankey’s passivity didn’t lead to a mess in Columbia, because Georgia and South Carolina were able to compromise and delay the game a day. But once Foley held firm on no game being played in Gainesville or anywhere else that weekend, no matter how the weather situation developed, a conflict was inevitable because from that point on, it would take two to tango.
I have no idea what motivated Foley to take the position he did — I agree that it wasn’t a matter of Florida not wanting to play the game at all — but it really shouldn’t have made a difference. Foley put himself and the conference in a box and saw his hand eventually forced by the commissioner and the SEC requirement that any team playing in the conference championship game had to complete an eight-game schedule.
If I don’t understand Foley’s motivation, Sankey’s reluctance to get involved until he did was equally puzzling. It turns out he held the hammer all along; had he played it a week ago, I suspect events would have played out quite differently and with much less rancor.
“We made this decision to play the game in Baton Rouge,” he said. “The conference office asked us to find a solution in working with LSU, yet LSU was never a true partner in our discussions. The Southeastern Conference offered some other solutions, and the LSU administration made it clear that they were unwilling to consider other reasonable options.”
Nice whine, Jeremy. What’s left unsaid is that some of those other solutions not only required LSU’s cooperation, but other conference schools like Georgia and Texas A&M, as well. What was in it for them to pitch in and save Foley from the consequences of his decision?
The end result sucks a little for both schools.
The pain, more of it than was required, does get spread around. Florida loses two home games: LSU and its scheduled game Nov. 19 against Presbyterian. LSU plays an 11-game schedule for the second straight season (last year’s home opener with McNeese State was wiped out by weather) by canceling its scheduled Nov. 19 game with South Alabama and has to travel to Florida in 2017 as a makeup for this year.
That, of course, is in addition to the money being paid to the cupcakes as a result of their games being cancelled. “More of it than was required” is exactly right.
It’s certainly no way to run a railroad. I expect the conference to try to come up with a new set of protocols to deal with potential bad weather situations in the future, but good luck with that. How many athletic directors are willing to cede that kind of control to Greg Sankey?