SEC commissioner Greg Sankey told CBS in an interview Saturday that the postponed LSU-Florida game needs to be played.
“It’s important to play that game,” Sankey told Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson in an interview during the Tennessee-Texas A&M game.
So what are the options now? The most likely choices are Nov. 19 or Dec. 3. Playing Dec. 3 would require the SEC to move the SEC championship game back a week. The league did that in 2001 after every game was postponed the Saturday following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. If the league chose Nov. 19, the following things would need to happen.
• The SEC would need to pay for LSU to buy out its scheduled home game against South Alabama at a cost of $1.5 million.
• The SEC would need to pay for Florida to buy out its scheduled home game against Presbyterian. Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said at a press conference last week that the buyout was “a bit less than $500,000.”
• The SEC would need to pay LSU for the money it would lose for giving up a home game. This is about $4 million.
It would also help if this scenario comes to pass if the SEC would move the LSU-Texas A&M game from Thanksgiving night (Nov. 24) to Nov. 26. Otherwise, the Tigers would be forced to play three SEC road games in 12 days. It also would be nice if the SEC offered to pay for Presbyterian to play at South Alabama on that day (or vice versa) and let the teams split the gate.
Do the teams have to play the game? Not yet. It’s quite possible neither Florida nor LSU will be in the hunt for a division title. Each already has a division loss, and each has difficult games on the horizon that could knock one or both out of the respective division races. If LSU loses to Ole Miss in two weeks and Florida loses to Georgia, it’s unlikely the postponed game would affect either divisional race.
If either team is in the hunt, the game needs to be played. If Tennessee were to lose two SEC games and Florida were to win out, the SEC rulebook states that because of winning percentage, 6–1 Florida would go ahead of 6–2 Tennessee in spite of the Gators’ loss to Volunteers in Knoxville on Sept. 24. The SEC cannot do that to Tennessee, and league officials would ensure the game gets played to ensure the correct team went to Atlanta. The same would be the case if LSU won out and Alabama finished 7–1 in the league with a loss to the Tigers. The SEC could not do that to LSU, and it would need to ensure the LSU-Florida game was played.*
*In the (admittedly unlikely) event that LSU does run the table, here’s another scenario to consider. What if LSU wins out—including wins at Arkansas Nov. 12, at Florida on Nov. 19 and at Texas A&M on Nov. 24 or 26—and then wins the SEC title? Even though the Tigers would have two losses, they’d be the hottest team in America. They also would be undefeated under interim coach Ed Orgeron. (Let that sink in.) Wouldn’t the College Football Playoff selection committee have to give the Tigers serious consideration for the final four?
LSU officials and fans are angry that the Gators didn’t accept the Tigers’ offer to host the game in Baton Rouge this weekend. LSU also offered options to play in Gainesville on Sunday or Monday. Florida officials did not want to play in Baton Rouge. Foley said getting the team out of Gainesville would have been too difficult. (And it’s pretty obvious the Gators didn’t want to wind up playing at LSU in three consecutive seasons.) The game couldn’t be played later in Gainesville because when the decision was made Thursday, there was no guarantee first responders or other government personnel would be available to work a game in Gainesville on Sunday or Monday*.
*Why is this? If Matthew had decided to come ashore at, say, Titusville or Daytona Beach instead of scraping the coast, it could have hit Gainesville as a Category 1 or Category 2 hurricane. The downed trees, power outages and potential flooding from such a strike would have kept emergency personnel occupied for days. That wasn’t what was projected, but ask the people in southwest Florida who got slammed by Charley’s hard right turn in 2004 how reliable predicted paths can be.
It’s silly to be mad about a decision made by two schools and a conference office dealing with a fluid and potentially dangerous situation, but welcome to the SEC. Since Thursday, years of scheduling angst have bubbled to the surface. The conference office probably should have taken more definitive action earlier, but that likely would have made just as many people mad because any decision made earlier than Thursday also would have erred on the side of caution.
The Florida State-Miami game in Miami Gardens, Fla., is scheduled to be played on time Saturday night. Georgia and South Carolina moved their game in Columbia to Sunday. NC State played Notre Dame in Raleigh and North Carolina played Virginia Tech in Chapel Hill in drenching rain and heavy winds. Danielson asked Sankey why those games were played and LSU-Florida couldn’t be. “Each of those is their own unique set of circumstances,” Sankey told CBS. “There’s a point at which you need to make some decisions. On Thursday afternoon, that storm was strengthening. It was passing north of Miami by projections, but Gainesville was well inside the hurricane zone.”
Now Gainesville may or may not be the site of an LSU-Florida game. Whether it is probably depends on whether either of those teams can remain in the SEC title hunt into November.