BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU won’t give up a home game later this season to make up a game at Florida that was postponed because of Hurricane Matthew, athletic director Joe Alleva said Monday, further minimizing the possibility that the traditional rivalry game will be played at all.
“One thing we’re going to hold very firm on is we have a home game on Nov. 19 — and we’re going to have a home game on Nov. 19,” Alleva said. “We’re not going to change that situation.”
His stance leaves open the possibility of LSU hosting No. 18 Florida on that date and buying out the Tigers’ scheduled opponent, South Alabama — should the Gators be willing to play in Baton Rouge that day and buy out their own scheduled guest, Presbyterian.
Alleva said the possibility of Florida coming to LSU this season and LSU going to Florida the next two seasons had not been discussed.
There do not appear to be many other options, however.
LSU is free on Oct. 29, a week before hosting No. 1 Alabama, which also has off the weekend of Oct. 29.
The Tigers could theoretically travel to Gainesville that weekend, but Alleva asserted, “I’m not in favor of playing a game on that day unless Alabama also plays a game on that day.”
Alabama athletic director Bill Battle declined to comment when asked about Alleva’s statements. And even if LSU was willing to play at Florida on Oct. 29, that would require Florida and Georgia to shuffle their annual rivalry game in Jacksonville from Oct. 29 to another day, such as Oct. 22, when both are off.
When Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity was asked during an SEC Network interview Monday about the possibility of moving that game, he responded, “It’s impractical and I don’t think it’s an option whatsoever.”
If the LSU-Florida game doesn’t get made up, the schools will play only seven Southeastern Conference games this season, rather than the usual eight.
That means the SEC might have to decide division winners based on conference winning percentages, as was done decades ago before every team in the conference had balanced league schedules.
Deciding divisions based on winning percentage could become advantageous for Florida if No. 9 Tennessee — which is coming off a loss at sixth-ranked Texas A&M and hosts No. 1 Alabama this Saturday — loses just one more SEC game. If Florida then wins its final four SEC games against Missouri (at home), Georgia (at home), Arkansas (on the road) and South Carolina (at home), the Gators would win their division with a 6-1 league record despite losing to Tennessee, which would be 6-2.
Meanwhile, if LSU won its final four SEC games against Mississippi (at home), Alabama, Arkansas (on the road) and Texas A&M (on the road), the Tigers would still finish second in the West if the Crimson Tide finished with only one league loss.
“If those scenarios play out, maybe there has to be another way of looking at who the division champions are. Maybe you only look at divisional play,” Alleva suggested, but stressed that there’s been “no discussion at all” about doing that.
In a statement Monday, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey reiterated that he wants administrators from LSU and Florida to work collaboratively to reschedule the game this season.
“We need to play the game and we need to have people come together to find a way to make that happen,” Sankey said.
Alleva has said that LSU — which in 2005 moved a home game to Arizona State because of Hurricane Katrina and then delayed a home game against Tennessee for two days because of Hurricane Rita — made every effort to have last weekend’s game played at Florida on Sunday or Monday, or in Baton Rouge. Alleva expressed frustration that Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley balked at LSU’s offers to get the game in last weekend until Thursday, when Sankey decided to postpone it. By contrast, South Carolina and Georgia agreed to delay their game from Saturday until Sunday.
“I watched South Carolina play Georgia yesterday, and I was wishing we were playing — somewhere — either here or there,” Alleva said.
In Louisiana, several columnists and sports talk-show hosts expressed cynicism over Florida’s indecision as the hurricane approached, and questioned whether the Gators preferred an indefinite postponement because it could improve their chances to win the SEC East and allow extra rest for a slew of injured key players. LSU is unranked but coming off a 42-7 win over Missouri in its first game under interim coach Ed Orgeron.
Florida coach Jim McElwain expressed disgust and disbelief that anyone would think his team tried to dodge playing LSU.
“Nineteen deaths, 2.5 million people without power, families in dire needs,” McElwain said. “Obviously, they don’t know me. They don’t know the Florida Gators. They don’t know our players. Dodging the game? Wow. … How anybody could even think that way is beyond me.”
AP Sports Writers Mark Long in Gainesville, Florida, and John Zenor in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, contributed to this report.
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