Joe Alleva: “We offered every opportunity to play”
By JAMES MORAN
Tiger Rag Associate Editor
LSU won’t be playing football in a hurricane’s wake after all.
In fact, LSU and Florida won’t be playing anywhere this weekend and likely won’t square off at all this season.
This weekend’s Florida/LSU game has been postponed indefinitely, the schools confirmed. The news comes one day after Florida announced it wouldn’t move the game from Gainesville despite the impending landfall of Hurricane Matthew, a Category 4 storm.
“I just want our fans to know and everyone to know LSU made every attempt to try to play this game,” Alleva said at a presser Thursday evening.
Alleva explained that LSU, in working with the Southeastern Conference office and Florida AD Jeremy Foley, offered to play the game Saturday or Sunday in Gainesville, or host it in Tiger Stadium this weekend.
Per the athletic director, LSU offered use of its chartered plane and team buses to help accommodate Florida in a potential venue change, but no agreement could be reached. Alleva said he even offered to play the game in an empty stadium if there weren’t any police available to work it.
“We offered every opportunity to play,” Alleva said. “Ultimately the decision was made by the league office, and we respect that.”
The two sides and SEC commissioner Greg Sankey had spoken regularly via daily conference calls since Tuesday. Foley publicly expressed confidence Wednesday that the game would be able to be played as scheduled at 11 a.m. CT in Gainesville.
Foley, who spoke earlier in the day, pointed to safety as the most important factor in the decision to call off the game instead of making a potential trip to Baton Rouge. A reporter noted the irony that Florida was asking LSU to do much the same thing in preparation game in Gainesville.
“And we were willing to do it,” Alleva said. “We were willing to go there. We had a plane. We had busses. We were willing to go. That’s my point I want to make here, we were willing to play the game.”
Sankey offered the following through an official release announced the indefinite postponement: “The developments of the hurricane in the last 24 hours, the projected magnitude of its impact and the unknown aftermath of this storm have resulted in this decision to seek another date to play the LSU-Florida game.”
The SEC release added that it’ll reschedule the game “later in 2016 if possible.” However, neither team has matching open dates, making such a rescheduling highly unlikely.
There is “zero chance” the game will be rescheduled, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.
According to a report from ESPN, Florida wanted to reschedule the annual cross-divisional rivalry game for Nov. 19, but LSU refused. Doing so would require LSU and Florida to cancel non-conference games with South Alabama and Presbyterian, respectively.
Alleva categorically denied that any conversation had taken place in regards to potentially rescheduling the game, whether it be on Nov. 19 or otherwise.
“I’ve had no contact with anybody” Alleva said, “the conference office, Florida or anyone else about rescheduling this game yet. I want to make that very clear.”
That’ll be a costly venture for LSU, which would have to pay a $1.5 million buyout to South Alabama and forfeit the ticket sale and other revenue that’d come from the season’s final home date.
Making a November trip to The Swamp would mean LSU closes its season with three conference road games at Arkansas (11/12), Florida (11/19) and Texas A&M (11/24) in a span of 12 days after hosting Alabama on Nov. 5.
LSU’s season opener against McNeese State last season was cancelled due to lightning, but no record can be found of an SEC game being cancelled without being made up. There’s a lot of season left to play, but a cancellation would potentially have major implications for the SEC Championship Game.
According to SEC bylaws, the winners of the SEC East and West divisions are decided based on the highest winning percentage in conference games, not the team with the most conference wins.
Here’s why that could matter:
– If LSU were to win out, meaning a win over Alabama, the Tide would still win the SEC West at 7-1 if LSU were to finish 6-1, despite the Tigers’ owning the head-to-head tiebreaker.
– For Florida, finishing the SEC slate at 6-1 would mean a spot in Atlanta if Tennessee lost twice — the Volunteers face Texas A&M and Alabama in consecutive weeks — despite getting drubbed in Knoxville.
But that’s a conversation for another day.
For now, Ed Orgeron announced, LSU’s players will get Friday, Saturday and Sunday off before getting back to work Monday ahead of a visit from Southern Miss. Meanwhile, the coaching staff will spend the weekend out on the road recruiting.