GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Rescheduling the LSU-Florida game might not be as easy as it seems for the Southeastern Conference.
The SEC postponed the game scheduled for Saturday because of Hurricane Matthew, which was bearing down Thursday on Florida’s east coast. The league said it will work with both universities to reschedule the game later in the season, if possible.
The schools have different opinions on how it should be handled, and ultimately the league will decide.
The 18th-ranked Gators (4-1, 2-1 SEC) ideally would like to play the game Nov. 19 in Gainesville, a scenario that doesn’t seem very attractive for the Tigers.
Florida and LSU each play nonconference games at home that Saturday and would need to buy out those opponents, South Alabama for the Tigers and Presbyterian for the Gators. LSU (3-2, 2-1) would be on the hook for $1.5 million to South Alabama, and Florida would have to pay $500,000 to Presbyterian of the Football Championship Subdivision.
Doing that would mean the Tigers would end the regular season with three consecutive road games — against Arkansas (Nov. 12), Florida (Nov. 19) and Texas A&M (Nov. 24).
“We told the league we’re 100 percent committed to whatever scenario they can come up with,” Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said. “Certainly we don’t have a consistent open date. … It’s not as easy sometimes as it seems and involves other games, it involves other teams, it involves television contracts, whatever have you.
“Whatever scenario they come up with, we’re going to be in favor of. We want to play the football game.”
LSU would rather not play three straight league games on the road, especially considering the last one, against the Aggies, is during a shortened week. It also would mean giving up a home game and losing revenue for the school and the city.
“I haven’t come to a decision on that yet, but it would be pretty damn tough to play on the 19th and then play A&M on Thursday, so I’ve got to do what’s in the best interest of the team,” LSU athletic director Joe Alleva said.
The Tigers are likely to push for a cancellation of the game.
The SEC has an insurance policy that covers lost game revenue for all 14 schools, but it’s unclear how much it would cover in this scenario.
“There’s insurance and scenarios and TV and all those type of things,” Foley said. “That’s why it will be handled in the league. The money is not an issue. Can it be worked out? Those are conversations that you probably need to hold with the Southeastern Conference. If it can be worked out, we’ll be thrilled, excited and ready to play that football game and I know our fans will be, too.”
LSU offered to host the game in Baton Rouge on Sunday or fly in and out of Gainesville that day, but Foley said it would be “almost impossible to accommodate that request.”
“To try to put a road trip together of 150-plus people in a day and half, not knowing the condition of the roads, not knowing the conditions of the airports, trying to get equipment out there,” Foley said. “Again, not in the best interest of safety, not in the best interest of people that would be involved in that trip. … People in this state may be dealing with stuff that is far more significant, far more serious. So that really didn’t work, either.
“I really understand the interest in the game, people’s desire to play the game. At the end of the day, we make these decisions based on what matters, and people’s safety is what matters. That’s why the decision was made as it did. It took as long as it did because a lot of moving parts.”
The biggest question surrounding the game if it’s not made up would be how it affects the SEC standings. If either team wins out, there could be potential ramifications for Auburn, Tennessee and maybe others. The SEC said Thursday that a team that finishes 6-1 in league play would go to the conference title game over a 6-2 team even if the 6-2 won a head-to-head matchup.
“They have to play that football game,” Volunteers coach Butch Jones said. “I know the SEC will do the right thing.”
AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org