BATON ROUGE — After each athletic director drew lines in the sand in Gainesville, Florida, then in Baton Rouge, it became a one-now-for-two-later compromise that looks just beach-y.
Florida, which postponed its game against LSU last Saturday because of Hurricane Matthew and refused to reschedule on Sunday or Monday as other schools in similar situations did last weekend and in the past, will now have to come to LSU to play on Nov. 19. But the Tigers will have to play at Florida in both 2017 and 2018, the Southeastern Conference office announced Thursday afternoon.
"We are happy with the decision," said LSU athletic director Joe Alleva, who said Monday he would not lose his November 19 home game date with South Alabama to play at Florida on that date, which was a popular solution. "It was our wish to have played the game last weekend, but all options that we put on the table were declined."
Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley repeatedly said no to any other options presented by Alleva and the SEC for last weekend, which included a move of the game to Baton Rouge, playing on Sunday or playing on Monday in Gainesville. South Carolina and Florida Atlantic, which were each in similar Matthew situations as Florida, moved games from Saturday to Sunday. Foley also never considered a neutral site.
"As the week progressed it became abundantly clear this was going to be a difficult negotiation," Foley said at a press conference Thursday. "LSU had drawn a line in the sand and was simply refusing to consider any other options presented except those consistent with the line they had drawn. I was surprised it became difficult. This one was difficult. It's a resolution. Obviously, LSU and Florida did not see eye to eye on this situation."
Florida will now lose two home dates this season as it had to cancel its original November 19 game against Presbyterian after losing the October 8 home date with the Tigers. LSU, meanwhile, gets an additional home game for the second straight season as South Carolina moved its October 10 home game to Tiger Stadium last year because of historical flooding in the Columbia, South Carolina, area and throughout the state. LSU's originally scheduled game for November 19 against South Alabama has been cancelled. The SEC office's insurance contracts for cancelled games will reimburse LSU for its $1.5 million buyout owed to South Alabama and do the same for Florida's $500,000 buyout to Presbyterian.
"It was important for us to come to a resolution," said SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, who was harshly criticized in Louisiana and nationally for his failure to act as quickly or as strongly with a hurricane-impacted game as former commissioner Mike Slive had before him in 2005.
COLUMNS: SEC commissioner Greg Sankey blew it
"As I have repeatedly said, this game needed to be played," Sankey said in a SEC release. "In the end, I want to give credit to the University of Florida for making concessions to move this year's game to Baton Rouge."
Game time and TV information for Florida at LSU has not been set yet, though a Florida release said the game will start no later than 2:30 p.m. central time. Such a parameter more than a month before a game would not be consistent with SEC protocol. The league schedule is light on November 19 as most teams are playing non-conference games. LSU fans with tickets for the originally scheduled South Alabama game can use those for the Florida game as long as they were not purchased through South Alabama.
"Great news," said LSU interim coach Ed Orgeron, whose candidacy for the permanent job saw its momentum slowed with the game postponement last weekend. Cancellation of the game could have hurt Orgeron's chances even more and created havoc with declaring SEC West and East division champions with uneven records.
"I want to thank our administration, especially Joe Alleva for fighting for us to get that game," Orgeron said after practice Thursday night. "A cloud has been lifted now that we're playing the game."
More difficult scenarios for LSU and other SEC teams were avoided. One had LSU playing Florida on LSU's open date of October 29 and moving the Georgia-Florida game up to October 22 - open dates for Georgia and Florida. Georgia naturally did not like that idea, and it would have meant LSU would not have had its traditional open date before playing Alabama, which is on November 5 this season.
"We have an open date before Bama, and we're getting to play Florida at home," Orgeron said. "It's a win."
Foley did not see it that way.
"It's less than perfect," he said. "They were committed to their position, and while I may not agree with it, I respect that they trying to do what they think is best for their institution as well. I also understand the fact that they are dealing with situations, too. And candidly, it's hard for me to say that right now, but I do understand that."
Foley, who is retiring on November 1 officially, sounded less harsh and more thoughtful in this press conference than he did in the one last Thursday. He said he spoke to incoming Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin, a former sports information director, who told him how to say some things differently.
"Nothing about this has been ideal," he said. Foley said Florida will loan itself money this year for the two lost home games and then pay it back to itself next year when it has the extra home game.
"I think it would have been a huge mistake for the University of Florida to draw a line in the sand (again). Then what do we have? Nothing good," he said. "At the end of the day, it was time to step up and do what you think is right for the SEC as a whole and the future of the SEC and go play a football game. Things always have a way of working out. So, what may not be ideal at the moment for the Gators is going to come back in spades for us a year from now."
LSU will play only 11 of an original 12-game regular schedule for the second straight season as its game against McNeese State on Sept. 5, 2015, was started, then stopped by rain and then canceled when Alleva - not unlike Foley this year - did not want to reschedule that game for the next day or for Monday.
The No. 25 Tigers (3-2, 2-1 SEC) host Southern Mississippi (4-1, 2-1 Conference USA) at 6:30 p.m. Saturday on the SEC Network. Here is LSU's newly revised complete remaining schedule:
Oct. 15, Southern Mississippi, 6:30 p.m., at Tiger Stadium
Oct. 22, Ole Miss, 8 p.m., ESPN at Tiger Stadium
Oct. 29 Open
Nov. 5, Alabama at Tiger Stadium (TBA)
Nov. 12 at Arkansas (TBA)
Nov. 19 Florida (TBA)
Nov. 24 at Texas A&M, 6:30 p.m., ESPN (Thanksgiving)
Television times for the Florida game as well as games against Alabama and Arkansas will be determined at later dates. The SEC office was looking at possibly moving LSU's game at Texas A&M from Thanksgiving to Saturday, Nov. 26, but that may no longer be in the works.
No. 14 Florida (4-1, 2-1 SEC) hosts Missouri (2-3, 0-2 SEC) at 3 p.m. Saturday on the SEC Network. The Gators’ revised schedule follows:
Oct. 15 Missouri, 3 p.m., SEC Network, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
Oct. 22 Open.
Oct. 29 vs. Georgia, 2:30 p.m., CBS, Jacksonville, Fla.
Nov. 5 at Arkansas (TBA)
Nov. 12 South Carolina (TBA)
Nov. 19 at LSU (TBA)
Nov. 26 at Florida State (TBA)
The SEC office will also be considering a change in its process to avoid the issues that arose last week when Foley and Sankey or Sankey and Foley did not move the Gators' Saturday game against LSU to Sunday or Monday. In a similar situation in 2005, Slive unilaterally moved Tennessee's game at LSU on Sept. 24 to Sept. 26 because of the approach of Hurricane Rita.
"The presidents and chancellors have established the expectation for existing conference policy to be revised to better define the process for completing postponed or interrupted contests and to grant authority to the commissioner to determine the date and location of future games that may need to be rescheduled if the two involved institutions cannot mutually identify a date," the SEC release said.
"Each university had its own set of concerns throughout this process," Sankey said. "However, existing SEC regulations did not provide an avenue to resolve conflicting issues in a more timely manner."
By Nov. 19, when LSU and Florida finally do play, Foley will no longer be Florida's athletic director as Stricklin will be in office.
"Lastly, I send thanks to Sun Belt Conference commissioner Karl Benson and his membership, which worked in collaboration and a great spirit of cooperation in presenting options as we worked through this process," Sankey said.
"I hope that we can all learn from this experience and as a league, be in a better position to deal with these situations in the future," Alleva said.
MORE: LSU-Florida last Sunday, Monday could've raised money | Orgeron tried to win during lost weekend by recruiting | Alleva draws line in sand vs. Nov. 19 schedule change | Five reasons for and against LSU and Florida playing again this season
SAFETY RICKEY JEFFERSON OUT: LSU starting safety Rickey Jefferson, a senior from New Orleans, fractured a bone in his lower leg at practice Wednesday afternoon and is expected to miss several of LSU's remaining games.
Jefferson is seventh on the team in tackles with 22. He has started all five games for the Tigers this season at free safety. He started nine of 12 games last season and made 36 tackles with three pass breakups, one sack and an interception. Junior safety John Battle has backed up Jefferson this season and was on the verge of replacing him anyway, Coach Orgeron said.
"Now, it's John Battle's turn," he said. "He may have started anyway. I don't think we're going to miss a beat."
Coverage of LSU and commentary by Glenn Guilbeau supported by Hebert’s Town & Country Automobile Dealer in Shreveport located at 1155 East Bert Kouns Loop. Research your next Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep or Ram at http://hebertstandc.com.)
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