E-mails indicate LSU believes Florida wanted to duck game

An e-mail chain that circulated within the LSU athletic department following Florida’s decision to postpone their Oct. 8 game due to Hurricane Matthew reveals that the dysfunction between the two parties and the Southeastern Conference was every bit as real as suspected.

LSU officials, in fact, seemed to believe that Florida was using the storm to duck the game and enhance its chances at winning the SEC East, a theory that became popular in the ensuing days on social media and LSU fan sites.

The e-mails were obtained by WBRZ-TV in Baton Rouge through an open records request.

“This is a joke,” LSU athletics director Joe Alleva wrote to communications director Michael Bonnette in response to the SEC’s announcement that Georgia and South Carolina, another game affected by the hurricane, had been postponed until that Sunday.

Blake Chatelain, a member of LSU’s Board of Supervisors, who was also included on the e-mail responded: “Florida would want to play as much as us…Would they not?”

At 10:05 p.m. on Oct. 6, Alleva then wrote back: “No way if they lost they would lose the east. Their schedule easier than Tennessee if they wanted to play we would be playing here or there”

Eventually, the game was rescheduled for Nov. 19 but in Baton Rouge, not Gainesville, after the two sides spent a week negotiating. To facilitate the move, LSU had to buy out a home game against South Alabama and Florida had to do the same against Presbyterian.

Comments from both Florida athletics director Jeremy Foley and SEC commissioner Greg Sankey have indicated frustration with Alleva for drawing a public line in the sand that LSU would play a home game on Nov. 19 no matter what. As public pressure mounted to get the game played, Florida relented.

Florida’s position from the start has been that the uncertainty of the hurricane’s path, combined with the unknowns regarding what kind of damage to the local community and public services it might wreak, necessitated the game be postponed.

LSU’s position is that it offered numerous alternatives to Florida during that week, including delaying the game by a day to let the hurricane pass or paying for Florida to fly to Baton Rouge and play the game on its regularly scheduled day.

Essentially, Alleva is suggesting in these e-mails that Florida was not acting in good faith but rather out of self-interest to its record and possibly squeaking into the SEC championship game on a technicality.

Though common on message boards on Twitter, that kind of talk is fairly stunning coming from the top athletics official at LSU, especially after he had been in conversations for several days with Foley and the SEC office.

It also suggests the SEC did a poor job of managing the situation and communicating concerns to both sides.

Foley and Florida coach Jim McElwain have strongly rejected the notion that they were trying to duck the game.

“I’ve been surprised about that all week,” Foley told reporters. “I get the importance of football — no one is a bigger football fan than myself — and I understand how important football is to the (Southeastern) Conference and the South; we had a Category 4 hurricane headed this way. (It) could’ve been catastrophic to the state. It was difficult enough for so many people. To think that we were trying to not play a football game for any reason, it just doesn’t make any sense to me.”

Frankly, these e-mails are yet another embarrassment to LSU, where Alleva has been on the hot seat for his handling of the Les Miles situation last year. Many people in SEC circles believe Alleva seized on the issue with Florida to help boost his own job status, as his own fan base considers it a win to negotiate his way into an extra home game this season.


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