GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Facts are not fun, especially during moments of controversy and debate.
Hot takes are what move the needle, and we’ve heard plenty of them this weekend in regard to the Florida-LSU game being postponed.
Both schools and SEC commissioner Greg Sankey have received a ton of criticism for how the situation was handled and who’s to blame for the outcome.
The obvious answer should be Hurricane Matthew, which caused at least 19 deaths in four states, record flooding, millions of power outages and an estimated $6 billion in economic damage.
Those aren’t the only facts that have been glossed over this weekend:
Fiction: Florida decided to cancel the LSU game
Fact: Florida and LSU were involved in the decision-making process, but SEC commissioner Greg Sankey and his office ultimately made the call. Both athletic directors, Florida’s Jeremy Foley and LSU’s Joe Alleva, said this Thursday.
Foley: “This is the right decision. I fully support the Southeastern Conference’s decision to postpone the game.”
Alleva: “At the end of the day, the Commissioner’s office had the final say on what happens.”
After communicating with each school and monitoring the storm Thursday, Sankey came to the following conclusion.
“It became clear that the University of Florida could neither host nor travel to a game this weekend considering the circumstances,” he said.
Fiction: Florida could have played LSU on Saturday
Fact: Hindsight is 20/20. Florida and the SEC got ripped Wednesday and early Thursday for even considering the possibility of playing the game. But by Thursday afternoon, Hurricane Matthew had slightly shifted to the west (toward Gainesville) with the potential of becoming a Category 5 storm.
Fortunately for Gainesville, the hurricane weakened, stayed east and did not cause significant damage in the city. That was an unpredictable outcome, however, and weather projections suggested otherwise Thursday. But come Saturday, many questioned why a game wasn’t being played.
“The developments of the hurricane in the last 24 hours, the projected magnitude of its impact and the unknown aftermath of this storm have resulted in this decision,” Sankey said at the time. “We have to be sensitive to the possible imminent disruption to the state of Florida and in particular the Gainesville and surrounding area.”
Fiction: Florida could have played LSU on Sunday
Fact: Again, that’s easy to say after the hurricane had not been as devastating in Gainesville as initially feared. But Matthew still decimated nearby cities such as St. Augustine. Instead of working the Florida-LSU game, the Gainesville Fire Department was deployed to assist surrounding areas affected by the storm.
— Florida Gators (@FloridaGators) October 8, 2016
Their absence in Gainesville and that of other first responders — as well as law enforcement — prevented a home game from happening this weekend.
“You had no resources. You had no personnel. The resources in Gainesville are overstressed already,” Foley said Thursday. “You cannot plan and hope that come Sunday this would all work out. One thing our staff does a great job of is plan for the worst and hope for the best. You can’t plan something and hope it all works out.”
Jay Logan, the associate athletic director for event and facility management at Mississippi State, told SEC Country the storm also could have affected the hundreds of members of Florida’s on-site staff — ticket takers, bag checkers, ushers, parking attendants, concessions workers, etc.
And the school, which canceled classes Friday, could not project how much help or shelter the city of Gainesville would need to provide for evacuees. UF Health Shands Hospital, for example, took in hundreds of evacuee patients.
“Just because the weather’s good (on game day) does not mean that everything is good elsewhere,” Logan said. “People need hotels. Food and water. There may be people still without power. There may be people who need some basic necessities because they’ve been relocated from wherever they are. … Some of the people working the games may be having to take care of those people.
“You’ve gotta look at it far enough out: Can hotels accommodate fans coming in, as well as residents being relocated? You have people that are dislocated by a storm that may be moving into hotels, may be consuming things that teams would use, and people’s safety would take priority over these teams coming in and using rooms to play a game.”
Fiction: Florida could have played at LSU
Fact: LSU offered to host the Gators, but they could not make the trip with such short notice and a hurricane potentially affecting their travel. Last year, South Carolina began planning Sunday to play the upcoming Saturday in Baton Rouge instead of Columbia, S.C. So that comparison is apples to oranges.
Others have pointed to Florida’s soccer and volleyball teams making road trips Sunday. The traveling party for football is three times the size of those two teams combined and requires security personnel and police escorts.
“To try to put a road trip together of 150-plus people in a day and half,” Foley said, “not knowing the condition of the roads, not knowing the conditions of the airports, trying to get equipment out there, that’s not in the best interest of safety, not in the best interest of people that would be involved in that trip.
“You aren’t going to put your team on the road and still have the same issue about traveling equipment trucks through this kind of weather. Traveling a team without any security because security forces are being deployed where they should be deployed. Would there be gas for the buses? Could you get buses? There’s so many unknowns.”
Alleva understood Foley’s concerns.
“Traveling, there’s a lot of safety issues,” Alleva said when asked if Florida was stubborn for not coming to Baton Rouge. “There were no police. I don’t know if you all listened to Jeremy’s press conference, but I’m sympathetic to what he said. I understand what he said.”
Fiction: Florida should have played since Miami and South Carolina did
Fact: As Foley said, Gainesville’s resources are already overstressed and the ability to handle a hurricane differs from city to city. Sankey explained this Saturday on CBS.
“Each of those is their own unique set of circumstances,” he said. “There’s a point at which you need to make some decision. Thursday afternoon that storm was strengthening. It was passing north of Miami by projection (mostly missing the 305 area code) and Gainesville was well inside the hurricane zone. Emergency personnel were being pulled away that could staff that football game. We have to remember that security issues and demands are very different today than they were a year ago.
“We didn’t know how players’ families would be impacted … and you had a bunch of evacuees who were moving from the coast into the Gainesville area. A number of those things are different than what we saw in Georgia-South Carolina where there was bus travel involved, we could secure space for the team to stay without displacing evacuees. Local emergency personnel were still available to staff the game. We have to understand those differences.”
Fiction: Florida was scared to play LSU
Fact: Just stop. No scholarship players in the SEC are afraid of a football game.
And the Gators and quarterback Luke Del Rio weren’t trying to dodge a home matchup against an LSU team with an interim coach, a sidelined Leonard Fournette and several injured starters on the offensive line.
— Luke Del Rio (@Ldelrio12) October 7, 2016
Fiction: Florida was the only in-state team that didn’t play this weekend
Fact: On Wednesday, Central Florida postponed its game against Tulane to Nov. 5, rather than playing on Sunday or traveling to Louisiana.
UCF must be scared of the Green Wave.
Fiction: Florida still hosted recruits after the game was postponed
Fact: Fox Sports’ Clay Travis and rival fans started this false rumor.
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) October 8, 2016
Florida is hosting official visitors for football this weekend but they can't play a football game. #DBAP
— Wiley Stidham (@wiley_stidham) October 7, 2016
Miami fans got upset when former Hurricanes commit C.J. Henderson sent out a tweet Friday that showed his location being Gainesville, Fla.
SEC Country reached out to Henderson and the 4-star cornerback said he arrived on Thursday before a decision had been made on the game.
He has family in Gainesville and planned to spend the weekend with them as well as attend the Florida-LSU game on an unofficial visit. But he cut his trip short and left early Saturday morning because of the postponement.
UF did not bring in any recruits after the game was canceled and host them on campus during the weekend.
Spoke to @HendersonChris_. He got to G'ville Thursday before UF-LSU postponement. Has family here. Left this AM because there was no game.
— Zach Abolverdi (@ZachAbolverdi) October 8, 2016
Fiction: Florida does not want to reschedule the LSU game
Fact: ESPN’s Brett McMurphy reported — twice — that Florida offered to play the Tigers on Nov. 19 and they refused. Alleva claims those conversations haven’t taken place.
Florida says LSU turned down offer to reschedule game Nov. 19; LSU AD Joe Alleva says he had “no contact w/anyone” about rescheduling game
— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) October 7, 2016
Regardless, Foley made it clear he wants to reschedule.
“The University of Florida is 100 percent behind whatever scenario they can come up with that allows this game to be played. If the 19th is one of those dates that allows it to work, the Gators will be there,” he said. “It’s not an issue about Florida not wanting to play LSU. I think and I hope everybody understands that.”
Fiction: Giving up a home game to play Florida will cost LSU millions
Fact: The SEC has a new lost-revenue insurance policy that went into effect this year. LSU reportedly makes $3 million per home game, and insurance would cover that. It already has to account for one Florida home game.
That policy — or the league itself — also may be able to pay the Nov. 19 contract buyouts for the Presbyterian (Florida) and South Alabama (LSU) games, which would be less than $2 million in total.