GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Nineteen.
That’s how many times Florida athletics director Jeremy Foley used the word difficult in his press conference Thursday night. This year’s UF-LSU rivalry game, originally scheduled to be played in The Swamp on Oct. 8, is now slated for Nov. 19 in Baton Rouge.
The root of that difficulty lies with LSU, which would not give up its home game on that date.
“It became abundantly clear this was going to be a difficult negotiation,” Foley said. “LSU had drawn a line in the sand and was refusing to consider any other options presented except those consistent with the line they had drawn.
“After a conference call yesterday with both schools, it was apparent that the only option that allowed this league to escape the greater hard reality to move forward with our season was a concession made by Florida.”
So Foley did, saying it would’ve been a huge mistake for UF to draw a line in the sand as well. He realizes this decision results in the Gainesville economy losing money and fans missing out on a second home game this season, but neither Florida — nor LSU — could be eligible for the SEC championship without playing an eighth conference game.
“At the end of the day, you know, it’s time to step up and do what you think is right and go play a football game,” Foley said. “It’s less than perfect. But again, they were committed to their position. And while I may not agree with it, I respect that they’re trying to do what they think is best for their institution.”
Foley said LSU was “never a true partner” and did not see eye to eye in this situation. He wasn’t expecting the school to take a one-sided, contentious approach to rescheduling the game.
“I was surprised it became difficult,” Foley said. “I’ve been in a lot of difficult conversations in this league on a lot of different subjects. Most of the time you get to a good place and it’s not as difficult as it may appear, but this one was difficult. Be that as it may, it’s a resolution.
“Understand that there’s some sacrifices too, not insignificant ones. But again, Florida wanted to do what we felt in the big picture was the best for the Southeastern Conference and that’s why we did what we did.”
When asked directly about LSU athletics director Joe Alleva and how he handled the process, Foley refrained from criticizing him directly.
“I’m not comfortable looking back,” Foley said. “What’s happened has happened, what was said was said. No purpose is gained by rehashing that or even commenting on it. What’s important is that we’ve come to a resolution.”