This is a little bit long. Feel free to browse the headings. SEC Wednesday will be posted tomorrow or possibly Friday and possibly in conjunction with other previews.
First I wanted to mention the passing of Mike VI. His last day outside (meaning outside of his den, not outside of his enclosure) was Saturday. At least there wasn’t much time between him being a seemingly normal happy tiger and the end. Saturday Down South had a nice spread about him as well.
Even though Mike VI didn’t seem to enjoy the stadium much, it will still be sad to have a home game on Saturday without him. He and Mike III (1958-76) both enjoyed national championships in their first football seasons, so maybe whoever Mike VII is will be a good luck charm in his first year as well. Weird that within just a few months, LSU had to get a new head coach, a new Voice of the Tigers, and now a new tiger. Too much change for my tastes.
I also want to express condolences and/or best wishes for those truly affected by Hurricane Matthew, before I start criticizing.
Background: It was NOT necessary to postpone the game to another weekend.
SB Nation writes: “Nine Floridians died in Hurricane Matthew. The direness of the forecast, combined with Florida’s potential loss of home game revenue, should trump any conspiracy theories about the Gators postponing the game because they’re scared of losing and falling in the standings. (Yes, those theories exist.)”
It’s not a conspiracy theory. It’s the only reasonable explanation the game didn’t get played like the other relevant games. Florida had an insurance policy for the game. I don’t think they lost very much if anything. How much would they gain by playing in the SEC Championship game and potentially a CFP bowl? There was never a “dire” forecast for Gainesville. I don’t know if they think Florida is the size of Connecticut or what.
How many deaths were there in Gainesville? How many were there in Tampa, where a game was played Saturday? How many were there in Miami Gardens, where a game was played Saturday? How many in Boca Raton, where a game was played Sunday? How many in Columbia, SC, where a game was played Sunday (under what appeared to be partly cloudy skies)? Even if someone did die in one of those places, they didn’t die because a game was going to be put on the next day. People die every day.
The implication that if you played the game Saturday, Sunday, or Monday lives would have been put at risk in a meaningful way is silly. If that is the case, why did all these other schools risk death?
A few thousand in the Gainesville area lost power and there was a light drizzle at some point. In other words, an unremarkable day in the Deep South. If my power were out, I’d be more likely to want to go to a game in my town personally. How is it that the risk to life and limb was so high in Gainesville but not in places that were both closer to the storm and closer to the Atlantic? There could have been a major tempest in Gainesville, and how would that have prevented playing the game on Sunday or Monday?
There was a game scheduled for Orlando (Tulane @ UCF) that was moved to another week, but it happened to be a mutual bye week for the two teams involved. I’m not sure they wouldn’t have played it had that convenient option not been available.
The only reasonable conclusion to reach is that Florida didn’t want to play the game. They had major injuries on defense, the starting QB was coming off an injury, and they didn’t want to play LSU and get banged up some more. Also, they got to watch Tennessee lose, and if the Vols lose next week (against Alabama), Florida will be poised to win the East by half a game. There are just too many coincidences for anything else to make sense.
If there were genuine concern about playing it in Gainesville, they should have expressed a willingness to move the game. Instead they delayed and delayed a final announcement until late in the day on Thursday. Before that announcement, they insisted the game would be in Gainesville on Saturday as scheduled.
Baton Rouge was also available.
LSU was available to play the game either at home or away any time (within reason) on Saturday, Sunday, or Monday, with or without hotel rooms. LSU also offered to pay the Gators’ travel expenses and provide hotel space had they chosen to play in Baton Rouge.
I get not wanting to play a road game (not that I buy the idea that there was any reason not to play the game in Gainesville on Sunday), but I would imagine at least a few Florida fans would have made the trip. The campuses are about 8 hours apart by car if one obeys the speed limit, but there are a lot of Florida fans in between Gainesville and Baton Rouge. About 5 of the 8 hours of travel are within the state of Florida. It being a large state school, I imagine there are a plenty of supporters and alumni who would have had much more comfortable driving distances. I’m from Louisiana, and it’s not uncommon to come across Florida fans there as well. I say that because I think they could have gotten a lot more Florida fans than normal into Tiger Stadium.
So there is almost nothing LSU wasn’t willing to do to get the game played Saturday, Sunday, or Monday. The only problem was Florida. LSU AD Alleva did say the ultimate decision to postpone the game was made by SEC Commissioner Sankey, so he refused to get too critical in a radio interview I heard, but I’ve also read elsewhere the commissioner doesn’t have authority to schedule an uncooperative team for a different date.
Other examples of rescheduled or moved LSU games
The Tigers didn’t have a great home-field advantage when they played South Carolina in a relocated game last year, and that was a fan base much less likely to make the trip anyway. Not as many people show up to impromptu home games. Given the prices, I don’t blame any season-ticket holder who isn’t willing to pay another penny toward a football game that the season ticket package doesn’t cover.
After Katrina, LSU moved what was supposed to be a home game to Tempe, AZ, to play the Sun Devils. Arizona St. donated the profits, but from the football side of things, it was a definite road game.
There are a couple of other things of note from that season.
The LSU-North Texas game, which was supposed to have been the opener, was rescheduled to October 29. Was that a mutual bye week? No, another team (ULM as I recall) had to move its schedule around.
Also, due to Hurricane Rita, the LSU-Tennessee game (which happened to be the home opener for one Les Miles) was postponed to a Monday. Given all the evacuees from Katrina still in the area, Tennessee had to fly in before the game and fly out after the game.
Like Tennessee did with its 2005 trip, LSU also offered to go to Gainesville without using hotels.
Remaining scheduling options
Since the decision to postpone the game indefinitely, LSU has been less in a mood to bargain with Florida. I’ll talk about where LSU’s position is right or wrong.
One idea was that LSU should cancel South Alabama, Florida should cancel Presbyterian, and LSU @ Florida could be played on 11/19. There is absolutely no reason to buy a team out and lose a home game. It’s ridiculous. It costs the local economy in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to lose a home game, and many businesses desperately need every game given the kind of summer Baton Rouge had. Also, that was supposed to be Senior Night. But I’ll talk below about potential alternatives for LSU keeping the 7 home games (3 of which have already been played and another this weekend).
I do fault Alleva for what he said about playing Florida on 10/29, LSU’s scheduled bye (this would involve moving up the Georgia-Florida game a week, but that decision should have been made already if it’s going to be made). He said he doesn’t want to play if Alabama isn’t going to play on that day. Well, Joe, Alabama isn’t going to play on that day. Georgia doesn’t want to go along with it anyway, not that they have a good excuse other than obstinence. Something about arranging for extra seats to be brought in. I don’t know why that can’t be done on 10/22 instead of 10/29. The Jacksonville Jaguars do have a game, but most stadiums can make changes like that in 24 hours.
Having a bye hasn’t done us much good the last few Alabama games, has it? But I do understand not wanting to play @Florida one week and to host Alabama the next. Not to mention that I don’t think Ole Miss on 10/22 will be a picnic either.
I made a proposal that would allow LSU to play the Arkansas game on 10/29 instead, but I don’t know if that’s too much better.
Brett McMurphy made a proposal that might work. It wouldn’t give Alleva the desired home game on 11/19 or the bye before Alabama, but it would have two good selling points: (1) It would be what should be an easy home nonconference game before Alabama instead of a road conference game the week before Alabama, and (2) LSU would not lose a home game.
However, it would involve some other teams. First, Georgia Southern and Georgia St. would have to move their game from 11/19 to 11/26, when they are both free. This would enable the Georgia St.-South Alabama game to move from 10/29 to 11/19, which in turn would enable LSU to host South Alabama on 10/29. This frees up 11/19 for LSU, when they can play Florida, provided Florida cancels its game with Presbyterian.
There is a similar arrangement that could take place with South Alabama, Georgia State, and ULM switching some games around instead of involving Georgia Southern.
Perhaps some of these teams can be tempted with future schedule considerations (and corresponding substantial financial incentive) with LSU and Florida.
There is another option which seems like it would make Alleva happy but perhaps not Florida. Both the South Alabama-LSU and Florida-Presbyterian games are canceled and LSU plays Florida on 11/19, BUT the game is played in Baton Rouge instead of Gainesville.
Future Years if Game is in Baton Rouge
I know no one would think it’s fair for Florida to go to Baton Rouge three years in a row (although this is their fault), but I have an idea to resolve that. Instead of LSU playing @ Tennessee next year, they host Tennessee and play @ Florida. The scheduled Tennessee @ Florida game would be played in Knoxville instead. That way everyone keeps 4 home games and 4 road games in the conference schedule. Just reset the home and home at that point. So LSU would start playing @ Florida (and Florida @ Tennessee) in odd years, and at home in even years. The non-annual SEC East opponent can be a road game for LSU in even years going forward. Tennessee’s non-annual SEC West opponent can be a road game in odd years going forward.
Changing even to odd is not unprecedented. Mississippi St. went to LSU in 1991 and 1992. Kentucky (which used to be an annual series) went to LSU in 1987 and 1988, and LSU went to Kentucky in 2001 and 2002. Alabama went to LSU in 1991 and 1992. LSU went to Ole Miss (actually Jackson) in 1991 and 1992, and Ole Miss went to LSU in 2001 and 2002. I’m sure there were many such situations that did not involve LSU as well.
Anyway, personally I hope the game gets played even if it involves LSU giving up the bye week and not having a home game on the 19th, but I don’t really want the game to be played if it means LSU having one fewer home game this year. If the game does not get played, something needs to be done about the division championship rules, at least for this season.