BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU athletic director Joe Alleva drew a line in the sand Monday with regard to the LSU-Florida game that was postponed due to Hurricane Matthew. The teams both play out-of-conference games on Nov. 19 and that date had been proposed for a possible makeup in Gainesville, but Alleva made clear on Monday that LSU intends to play in Tiger Stadium on that day.
“We are going to have a home game on Nov. 19,” Alleva said.
The Tigers are scheduled to face South Alabama in Baton Rouge that day. Florida is scheduled to face Presbyterian in Gainesville. A potential solution was to buy out the two non-conference games and pay LSU for the loss of home game revenue, but that is off the table if LSU refuses to go to Gainesville on Nov. 19. (That scenario also would have forced LSU to play three SEC road games—Arkansas, Florida and Texas A&M—in 12 days.) Alleva said the Tigers won’t take a buyout and go on the road that day. “It's not about [money],” Alleva said. “It’s about the fact that our fans and this city deserve to have a home game on that day.”
That leaves Dec. 3 as the only realistic makeup date that wouldn’t require other schools to move their games. That is the day of the SEC Championship Game. So if either LSU or Florida were in the hunt for a division title, the title game would have to be moved back a week. That isn’t unprecedented; in 2001, the SEC moved its title game back a week after all the league’s games were postponed following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. If Florida and LSU are out of the hunt for their respective division titles—and this is a distinct possibility given their upcoming schedules—they wouldn’t need to play the game.
In a statement Monday, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey reiterated his desire to see the game played. “The presidents and athletics directors from Florida and LSU agreed on Thursday that the schools and SEC office would make every effort to find a scheduling solution to their postponed game,” Sankey said in the statement. “As I have said, we need to play the game and we need to have people come together to find a way to make that happen. We continue to work with the universities to play this game.” Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said basically the same thing in a statement of his own. “We understand the importance of playing this game and we want to play this game,” Foley said in the statement. “We continue to work with the SEC and LSU to make that happen.”
Alleva suggested that if the Tigers, Gators and SEC can’t come to an agreement about a makeup, perhaps the league should consider only division records to decide a division champion. This would solve the potential problem of a 6–1 Florida sneaking past a 6–2 Tennessee team that beat the Gators or a 7–1 Alabama team going to Atlanta instead of a 6-1 LSU that beat the Crimson Tide. (Former Florida and South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier actually suggested in 2012 that the SEC do this every season to account for major differences in strength of schedule depending on cross-division opponents.)
Alleva said he hasn’t spoken to league officials about that option, which would require an exception to the SEC’s written rules.