Stricklin: Plenty of Reasons for Gators to Play FSU 'If at All Possible'
Although it has yet to be announced, there has been plenty of speculation regarding the SEC's potential move to conference-only play, following the Big Ten and PAC-12 for this fall. While a move has yet to be made, Gators athletic director, Scott Stricklin indicated on Tuesday he'd like for Florida to play Florida State, "if at all possible" this season.
Nothing is set in action as the SEC continues to bide the little time it does have left in making any major decisions regarding fall athletics while the country continues through the coronavirus pandemic.
Thus far, no changes have been made directly to the SEC's schedule, however, there have been a couple of indirect changes, including Alabama's game against USC and Texas A&M's game against Colorado. Both games, as if right now, will not be played due to the Big Ten's move to a conference-only schedule, and there has been no word regarding re-scheduling.
As reported by Sports Illustrated's Pat Forde and Ross Dellenger, the SEC meeting which took place in Birmingham (Ala.) on Monday discussed several options when it comes to scheduling this year, including a potential conference only + schedule, which could include one or two non-conference games in addition to the normal conference schedule.
"Barring a full, 12-game schedule, three models emerged as strong possibilities with league power brokers: an eight-game conference-only schedule and a nine or 10-game plan that would preserve at least one scheduled matchup with a Power 5 conference program," Sports Illustrated wrote.
For the Gators, playing a rivalry game as deeply rooted as the annual Florida-Florida State matchup would be one of the more primary matchups the program would like to have scheduled, even given the models listed above. If at all possible, Florida and Florida State would be playing in the fall, however, it's too early to make that determination, said Stricklin.
"We had our meeting in Birmingham yesterday and there's a lot of healthy conversation that goes back and forth," he says. "But when you start talking about what actual schedules could look like, there's so many unknowns that go into that right now that you're having to fill in the blanks on. It's hard to even make that jump. I don't mean to sound repetitive, but we need to find a path that allows us to put our athletes in a safe environment to compete.
"If we're able to get to the point where we play a game, when we get to that point I want to play that FSU game. That's really important to the state of Florida. I think it's really important to both institutions. I'm hopeful we can find a way to play our schedule as normally as possible at that point, but that again is secondary to making sure we take the extra steps to enhance the safety for our athletes."
The Gators are one of several collegiate programs that have been directly affected due to the coronavirus pandemic, recently accounting for a total of 29 student-athletes across all athletic programs that have tested positive. Florida has tested, as of last weekend, a total of 238 student-athletes.
While a specific move to conference-only play would be almost unprecedented, especially on such a large scale, it may be for the best as teams can limit their travel, without surrendering too many key matchups. For Florida, it is roughly 150 miles from Gainesville to Tallahassee, where their matchup against FSU is slated to take place at, "a bus ride", Stricklin pointed out.
“It makes a lot of sense for us to try and play FSU assuming we’re on the same page from a testing protocol standpoint and logistics can be worked out," says Stricklin. "Depending on where this thing ends up, it might be out of our hands, but I know that’s something that’s really important to us and I’ve talked to (FSU athletic director) David Coburn and he feels the same way. That’s a good game for the state."
The Gators currently hold a 36-26-2 series lead over the Seminoles and as of right now are slated to play @ Florida State in Tallahassee (Fla.) on November 28th.