LSU-Florida will be played but reactions to its postponement have been appalling
Screaming 'conspiracy' over the Gators-Tigers game being postponed is just ridiculous
LSU-Florida will be played. Period.
For the integrity of the SEC race and college football, the Tigers and Gators will make up the game that was postponed last week.
How can they not? The SEC cannot risk a team that played one less conference game getting to Atlanta and -- possibly -- the College Football Playoff.
So that's out of the way. They're going to play. Believe me.
"It isn't easy," one SEC official said, "but it's possible."
What's been appalling is the reaction to last week's postponement. It wasn't about Gainesville, Florida -- at that moment -- looking down the maw of a monster hurricane.
It wasn't about evacuees wondering if they'd even have homes to come back to. It wasn't about possibly playing a game on emergency generators in the face of a mass power outage.
No, the default reaction in SEC country was conspiracy. It was about Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley "playing" SEC commissioner Greg Sankey to retain a home game. It was about LSU AD Joe Alleva all but calling out Florida for not flying to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to play the game.
The SEC loves a good connivance, but the culture embarrasses itself sometimes. Not to get all high and mighty, but I was embarrassed for some of my colleagues. They needed heroes, villains and page views.
For those of us living outside the SEC bubble, the first reaction was, "Well, OK, when are they going to make it up?"
There are options, as you will see below. But the initial reaction among the even-keeled wasn't that Foley stonewalled or Alleva pulled a fast one by offering his stadium like it was free lemonade: come and get it.
I'm not wondering why LSU-Florida wasn't played. After taking in the entire weekend, I'm wondering why Notre Dame-NC State was played.
In a state (North Carolina) where the Hurricane Matthew death toll is up to seven, they asked fans to pay good money to watch a game in the hurricane's remnants. A higher power seemed outraged, too. The game was delayed by lightning.
There were suggestions Foley slow-played discussions until Thursday. You wait until the last minute because ... you wait until the last minute.
By Thursday, there was still a chance the game could be played. The weather worsened. There were emergency personnel who would have worked the game but were called away.
What about erring on the side of safety? What about playing a game on a campus that is closed? What kind of message does that send?
Nothing changed over the weekend in the big picture. Football rules all and nothing else matters. This is the conference that waited until Thursday the week of Sept. 11 to cancel games (the last major conference to do so).
Credit Barrett Sallee of Bleacher Report for calmly sitting down and determining that 52 Florida players resided in the hurricane warning zone on the state's east coast. Now consider the families of all those players.
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
"The game was well inside the hurricane zone," Sankey said Saturday on the SEC on CBS Game of the Week.
You still want Florida to play a football game?
You don't shoehorn in a game in the middle of hurricane as a competitive convenience to LSU. You don't force Florida players to get on a plane not knowing what they'd come back to.
Conversely, LSU, you don't get to dictate the terms of the game because your stadium is open.
There are ways to play this contest and they are fairly simple. Both teams play lower-tier teams on Nov. 19. Buy out those games (FCS Presbyterian for Florida, FBS South Alabama for LSU) and play the game on that date.
Better yet, one colleague suggested having Presbyterian and South Alabama play that day on the SEC Network. The kids get their exposure. ESPN can use the telecast as a three-hour infomercial urging donations for hurricane relief.
See how this works when you sit down and think about it?
An SEC official told me other games could be moved around to accommodate LSU and Florida. That's probably an extreme measure. So is moving the SEC Championship Game back a week if both teams are in contention.
But the game will be played. If it comes to it, Sankey needs to bring the hammer and tell the schools what's going to happen.
"My desire," Sankey said artfully on CBS, "is to see us play that game."
You already hear LSU whining about having to play three times on the road in 13 days in November. Please don't give me player safety, especially since the third game could be moved back a couple days from Thursday to Saturday. Jim Harbaugh said in a recent book he practiced the Wolverines four hours a day upon his arrival.
Where's the outrage for that?
What we're left with is nothing more than a highly publicized inconvenience because of an act of God. The right decisions were made.
It was a net win for everyone involved. In the end, no one was put in harm's way ... unless you believe in a vast conspiracy.
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