BATON ROUGE, La. — The storm we now know as Matthew has been classified as a hurricane since Sept. 29. But according to LSU athletic director Joe Alleva, discussions about moving the football game between LSU and Florida that Matthew postponed have only been going on for two days.
“My first conversation with [Florida athletic director] Jeremy [Foley] was on Tuesday,” Alleva said. “He felt very confident they were going to be able to play the game. We had a conference call on Wednesday and they were very confident that they could play the game. Then today it all fell apart.”
It was announced today that the game, originally scheduled for noon Saturday in Gainesville, Fla., had been postponed. In his press conference Thursday night, just hours after the announcement, Alleva said that no negotiations have taken place about rescheduling the game, be them with Florida, with the SEC office or with any other opponents against whom LSU might be interested in cancelling games.
Alleva was adamant in this fact, saying that no offer has been made by any party to play the game on Nov. 19 when LSU is supposed to play South Alabama and Florida is supposed to play Presbyterian. This runs contrary to a report from ESPN earlier Thursday that said Florida offered to reschedule the game for that date, but Alleva and LSU refused.
Florida offered to play LSU on Nov. 19 & cancel Presbyterian game, but LSU refused, source told @ESPN. LSU hosts South Alabama on Nov. 19
— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) October 6, 2016
Given Alleva’s comments, a refusal of any sorts would be somewhat surprising. Based off what he said, LSU would’ve accepted any offer on the table.
“We were willing to go there,” Alleva said. “We had a plane. We had buses. We were willing to go. That’s my point I want to make here: We would’ve done anything to play the game.”
That “anything” included moving the date and location of the game. Alleva said he offered to play the game as scheduled in Gainesville, to push it back to Sunday night in Gainesville, to move it to Saturday or Sunday in Baton Rouge — offering LSU’s team plane for transportation — or even to push it back to Monday in either location. Alleva went as far as to say that he would’ve had the game played in front of zero spectators, since emergency personnel such as police will have other obligations than to keep the peace at a football game.
But none of his offers were accepted. At the end of the day, safety was the main issue. Alleva said Foley feared for the safety of his players and the fans in Gainesville, especially given the difficult the school would’ve encountered trying to police the game.
Alleva said you “have to respect that concern,” but also explained that the decision was ultimately up to the league office. That said, the league office did choose to push South Carolina’s home game against Georgia back one day to Sunday since Columbia, S.C. is expected to be affected by Matthew as well. Why the SEC chose to push back one game and postpone another outright is up to this point unclear.
One thing that is clear is that LSU’s players and coaches are disappointed by this news. But, as coach Ed Orgeron said, they’ve already began to move on.
“It was like it was Christmas day and there were no Christmas presents,” Orgeron said. “That’s how it felt. I’ll be honest with you. I felt like I let them down. I gave them time to grieve and we talked about it. But I told them what to expect and what to do, handle it with class. Although we’re disappointed, let’s control what we can control.”