No one not wearing an orange-and-blue tank top with gold chain, jorts and flip-flops will like reading this, but everyone in the SEC – fans, coaches, administrators – owes the University of Florida. There are two reasons:
1. Had UF not backed down in the face of LSU athletic director Joe Alleva’s petulance following the Hurricane Matthew-caused postponement of the teams’ game and acquiesced to his demand that the game be played in Baton Rouge , the SEC would have been put in the middle of an ugly, unprecedented, public mud-slinging between member schools.
Suppose outgoing athletic director Jeremy Foley had not agreed to move this season’s game, originally scheduled for Gainesville, to LSU. He had no obligation to do so. He could have dug in his heels, as Alleva did.
It is, after all, Florida playing for a spot in the SEC championship game, not LSU. Don’t you think the Gators’ chances to win would be better in the Swamp than Death Valley? Of course.
But Foley – for the good of the league and to the short-term detriment of his own team – put the Gators at a competitive disadvantage.
Had he not, the game might not have been played at all, disqualifying both teams from SEC title-game consideration, robbing all fans and players of at least watching and competing, and all businesses in both Gainesville and Baton Rouge from any opportunity to generate revenue.
The SEC could have “forced” the two to play, which would have required some sort of vote among the league’s presidents or athletic directors or a unilateral decision from commissioner Greg Sankey whereby they, or he, would have set the date, time and location. This never has happened, and I’m not sure anyone knows exactly how it would have worked. Fortunately, we didn’t have to find out, thanks to UF’s graciousness. Had it come to that, you can guarantee it would have been public, political, nasty, embarrassing and struck at the heart of the SEC’s 80-plus years of cohesive brotherhood.