BATON ROUGE – Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey has some lobbying to do in the coming days.
He may not admit his mistake of last week in not moving the LSU at Florida game from Saturday to Sunday or Monday at the original site as multiple teams in the area did with their games, but at least he knows what he must do.
“The game needs to be played,” Sankey said during the Texas A&M-Tennessee game Saturday afternoon on CBS. “And we need to work together to find a way to do that.”
Interesting choice of words. They perhaps infer that certain parties did not work together last week in not moving that game to another day.
“This conference often describes itself as a family,” he continued. “A family has points of tension. We certainly understand the angst and frustration. I have my own level of angst.”
Wow. The only folks in the LSU-SEC-Florida fiasco last week who do not seem to have angst over this game are Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley and most Florida fans.
“But we need to come together to play a football game and find the best way to do that,” Sankey said.
In another interview Saturday, Sankey spelled out that he makes the ultimate decision. It makes you wonder why he found it necessary to point that out at this time. Perhaps because it didn’t seem like that last week as Foley’s underlings released the following absolute statement on Wednesday afternoon concerning the storm? “The game will not be moved out of Gainesville,” was how it wrapped up.
“Ultimately, the commissioner has the authority in our bylaws to terminate, cancel or postpone a game,” Sankey said.
Thanks for that reminder, Mr. Sankey, and please forward the University of Florida’s athletic department as you try to reschedule this game.
Sankey realizes more than just LSU’s and Florida’s schedules are at stake. If the game is not scheduled, there are strong possibilities that the uneven number of games played by the two could taint one or both of the West and East division winners. If LSU wins out, for example, it will finish 6-1 in the SEC. If Alabama wins out other than the LSU loss, for example, it would be 7-1, and the Crimson Tide would win the division despite losing the head-to-head tiebreaker if LSU had been allowed to beat Florida.
Chances of LSU winning out are not great, but the fact that it could happen is reason enough to reschedule the LSU-Florida game. And I would have your check book ready, Mr. Sankey, to reimburse LSU part of the $4.5 million it would lose by having to bump South Alabama from its November 19 home game ($3 million in lost revenue, $1.5 million in game buyout to South Alabama) if LSU and Florida indeed play on November 19. Florida would need only pay Presbyterian $500,000 to replace it with LSU in that home game.
Sankey should clearly get Florida to reimburse LSU some of that $4.5 million fee as well. In fact, Sankey could get more for LSU by fining Florida for scheduling Presbyterian and forwarding that to LSU.
Just kidding on that one, but Sankey clearly sounded on Saturday like a man on a mission to make things right. And that is good news. Once the cost of rescheduling is settled to LSU’s benefit, LSU should not complain about the new schedule. Playing at home against Alabama on November 5 after an open week, then traveling to Arkansas and to Florida, which is an average team, and finishing the season at Texas A&M will be difficult, but it’s nothing different than other teams have routinely faced.
Remember, all SEC teams are getting off easy only playing eight league games when there are 14 teams in the league anyway. They should be playing more. That way you wouldn’t have Florida embarrassing the league by scheduling teams like Presbyterian.
Plus, Sankey will get that Texas A&M game moved from Thanksgiving on November 24 to November 26 to ease LSU’s difficulty a bit. Texas A&M has a dog in this rescheduling hunt as it could also need LSU to play its predetermined eight league games. Florida, meanwhile, would still have back-to-back home games on November 12 against South Carolina and November 19 against LSU and a healthier defensive line and original starting quarterback. Ever wonder if Foley and Florida coach Jim McElwain were targeting November 19 for LSU like last Tuesday?
There is also a possibility that LSU and Florida could play on October 29. That is LSU’s open date. For that to happen, the Florida-Georgia game on October 29 would have to be moved up to October 22. Florida and Georgia are open that week. LSU and Florida have each had open weeks thanks to Mr. Foley, so that’s fair … unless you’re Georgia. That one sounds easy, but it’s not. That’s not a LSU-South Alabama or Florida-Presbyterian game. That is one of the best rivalry games in the SEC, and people have planned on that game as far as travel and hotels and work schedules for more than a year. And because Florida couldn’t handle – or didn’t want to handle – moving a game by a day or two, Georgia has to pay the consequences along with LSU.
But Sankey will do right by LSU by doing right for the SEC by doing right by the schedule and making sure everyone plays the same number of conference games for competitive balance.
In the end, Sankey will do what's right because that's the kind of guy he is.
“We need to come together, and I am in a position to lead that effort,” Sankey said, reminding us yet again of his job description. “But we all have responsibility because this affects the entire conference.”
Well said, and Foley and LSU athletic director Joe Alleva, who has tried to say the LSU-Florida game has been cancelled all together and has been wrong to do that, need to remember that.