Of the dozen or so Saturday college football games potentially impacted by Hurricane Matthew, all but one managed to find scheduling solutions.
Some stayed the same. UMass-Old Dominion moved up to Friday. Georgia-South Carolina moved back to Sunday. A couple others moved to later weeks.
One is either canceled or postponed — depending on who’s describing it at the moment — but almost certainly canceled.
By most accounts, LSU offered Florida just about everything it could in order to play this weekend, including a game in Baton Rouge, Mobile, Nashville, or New Orleans. The Tigers have also publicly and, per And The Valley Shook, privately denied reports that Florida offered to play the game on Nov. 19, which would’ve meant each canceling a non-conference game and would’ve cost LSU at least $1 million more than Florida.
After stalling until late Thursday afternoon, with LSU set to fly into Florida, the parties announced the game was more or less off.
“Thursday afternoon, that storm was strengthening, and Gainesville was well inside the hurricane zone,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said on the air during CBS’ Tennessee-A&M broadcast. “We didn't know how player families would be impacted. And you had a bunch of evacuees that were moving from the coast into the Gainesville area.”
Games can just be canceled?
Games have been canceled before, but this is a new one.
Veterans in the #SEC office say they believe this could be the first league game ever that's been canceled. #LSU #Gators— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) October 6, 2016
Why wouldn’t Florida just agree to play the game elsewhere?
That would’ve turned a home game into a road game, but it also would’ve cost UF money. ATVS’ rationale:
Simply put, Florida will lose little, if any, revenue in missing this game. Most athletic departments have loss insurance for just this purpose. But that policy doesn’t kick in if the game is still played elsewhere, such as Tiger Stadium, or at a neutral site. In that scenario, the Gators would be left with the diminished gate receipts and concession sales from the other venue — and even in a stadium of comparable size, like Tiger Stadium, the short notice would have likely meant a very small gate (South Carolina’s game at LSU last year drew an announced crowd of 42,058).
Spencer Hall explains the current mindset of UF leadership:
Florida will never do anything it doesn’t have to do, ever, because the general pattern of the program since it tasted a thimbleful of success has been colossal arrogance. It’s our thing, whether we can back it up or not. Florida plays no out-of-conference games it does not have to, and has not for the entirety of Jeremy Foley’s tenure as athletic director. It tolerates no coverage it does not want, and was one of the first programs to create its own media apparatus to make news it liked.
Wait, could this wreck the SEC standings at the end of the year?
If the game isn’t played, yep:
Here's the SEC response to my inquiry about scenarios if LSU-UF isn't made up. So 6-1 UF would go to ATL over 6-2 UT. pic.twitter.com/n4qvQin2hW— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_AJC) October 6, 2016
So is everybody mad about that?
Other SEC teams are mad, and justifiably so.
"I think we'd have a problem if that game caused an issue with either division champion," one SEC head coach told SB Nation’s Steven Godfrey.
“They have to find a way to play that game," Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin told ESPN’s Chris Low. "I don't see any way around it if they want to keep it fair for all teams.”
Butch Jones on @3HL1045 talking Florida-LSU: "They have to play that football game ... I know the SEC will do the right thing."— @GrantRamey (@GrantRamey) October 6, 2016
"The game needs to be played, and we need to work together to find a way to do that,” said Sankey. “I understand the angst and frustration. I have my own level of angst. We need to find a way.”
Players from both teams were tweeting frustration during the game as well.
If LSU or Florida is still in the race at the end, why not just play it in December and move back the SEC Championship a week?
The Playoff committee is prepared to announce its New Year’s lineup on the day after conference championship Saturday.
But if the committee was prepared to adjust its schedule to account for Army-Navy, it could certainly do the same for a game potentially involving the No. 1 team. So yeah, good idea.
That hasn’t been officially announced as the contingency plan or anything, but that’d make the most sense. Atlanta’s Georgia Dome, the site of the SEC title game, does appear to be available on the following Saturday, FWIW.
“We spent Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday in crisis management. Yesterday was whiteboard day for evaluating options. I would like to move this along as efficiently as possible. My desire is to see us play this game,” Sankey said, speaking generally.
How mad should I be about all this?
How about this: if this does end up altering the top of the SEC standings into December — in the East, for example, that would require (1.) a Florida with a shaky offense to go 4-0 against Arkansas, Georgia, Missouri, and South Carolina; (2.) Tennessee to lose twice, since the Vols have a tie-breaker over the Gators; and (3.) the SEC to not come up with a smart way to resolve 1 and 2 — we can all raise hell later on.
Right now, though, it’s tricky to get too upset about it (unless you’re an LSU fan, Tennessee fan, or rival coach, maybe) without sounding like football’s a bit too big of a priority.
Y’all, Florida has 52 players on its current roster from the PINK area on this map.— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) October 6, 2016
You want them to worry about a football game???? pic.twitter.com/cFwWTg3kdj
Per reports from Florida, six people are dead and more than a million are without power.