Florida’s game against LSU for Saturday, October 8 has been cancelled for that date, according to a release simultaneously issued from Florida, LSU, and the SEC and written by the conference.
Ross Dellenger of The (Baton Rouge) Advocate was first to report the news.
But Dellenger’s report and an initial tweet from LSU called it “cancelled,” and then revising that status with a tweeted correction that puts “postponed” in scare quotes...
CORRECTION: #LSU game at Florida scheduled for Oct. 8 in Gainesville, Fla., officially "postponed."— LSU Football (@LSUfootball) October 6, 2016
...while the release says the game has been postponed, and that the institutions will work to reschedule the game if possible.
The LSU-Florida football game scheduled for Saturday in Gainesville has been postponed due to Hurricane Matthew, it was announced Thursday. The universities and the SEC Office will work to reschedule the game later in the 2016 season if possible.
"We had a very productive phone call today with a great spirit of cooperation between the universities' presidents and athletics directors and it became clear that the University of Florida could neither host nor travel to a game this weekend considering the circumstances," said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey. "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 to seek another date to play the LSU-Florida game. We have to be sensitive to the possible imminent disruption to the state of Florida and in particular the Gainesville and surrounding area."
At this time the schools do not have a common open date on which to reschedule the game, so the schools and SEC Office will make every effort to find a scheduling solution with the possible movement of other games on the schools' schedules.
Before deciding to postpone the game, the schools and SEC explored other date and location options, and LSU offered to either travel or host the game over the course of the weekend. Ultimately it was determined that the likelihood of damage from the storm, lack of available emergency personnel and the uncertainty of the impact of the storm on people, facilities and travel necessitated a postponement.
"The timing of this storm on a Friday and the uncertainly of its aftermath in the ensuing days make it particularly difficult to project the conditions for the remainder of the weekend as well as the opportunity for travel of teams and fans to or from Gainesville and other cities in Florida," Sankey said. "I am appreciative of the cooperation of our universities on this matter."
Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley addressed assembled reporters in Gainesville Thursday afternoon to explain that Florida’s ultimate inability to host the game was due to a reallocation of local emergency resources, as well as Gainesville serving as a destination for evacuees fleeing the east coast of the state.
Multiple reports from Louisiana suggested that LSU offered significant logistical assistance in an effort to move the game to Baton Rouge — something Florida declared would not happen in no uncertain terms on Wednesday — and that the Tigers “offered” to play the game on Saturday, Sunday, or Monday, even in Gainesville.
But Foley confirmed that options to move the game from Gainesville were not considered, and laid out the logistical challenges that made shifting the game to Baton Rouge an impossibility. Foley also mentioned that he got the impression from a Thursday conversation with the SEC that there was a “very, very good chance” that the game would still be played on Saturday.
An initial plan to have a final decision on the status of the game issued at 1 p.m. Eastern on Thursday fell apart, however, slipping first to a 3 p.m. deadline for that decision and then to an announcement between 3 and 4 p.m. that preceded a reported 5 p.m. deadline.
Obviously, no compromise was reached on playing a game this weekend. A future date amenable to both sides will be very difficult to find, too.
Florida’s bye week is in two weeks, and LSU plays Mississippi on that weeked; LSU’s bye week, in three weeks’ time, coincides with Florida’s annual game in Jacksonville against Georgia.
And while both teams play non-conference guarantee games on November 19— Florida hosts Presbyterian, while LSU hosts South Alabama — only Florida, according to Associated Press reporter Mark Long, is currently interested in adding a contest with an SEC foe prior to a season-ending rivalry game. (Florida travels to Florida State on November 26, while LSU visits Texas A&M on Thanksgiving.)
But LSU visiting Florida on that November date would force the Tigers to play three consecutive road SEC games, which seems like something LSU — or any team — would rather avoid if possible.
And while the SEC could step in with money to cover lost revenue, pay the cost of breaches of contracts with Presbyterian and South Alabama, and make up for Florida’s lost home revenue for this weekend, the conference almost certainly isn’t going to donate money to the Gainesville businesses missing out on revenue from the biggest home game weekend on Florida’s 2016 slate out of the kindness of its heart, nor do something similar for Baton Rouge in the event the Tigers made the call to play in Gainesville on November 19.
In all likelihood, despite the verbiage about this game being postponed and the public posturing about trying to get the game rescheduled, Florida-LSU was just cancelled not just for now but for the 2016 season, leaving Florida to play an 11-game regular season schedule for the second time in three years and leaving Gainesville high and dry in terms of one vital weekend of revenue.
There will be more fallout to discuss from this decision in the coming days and weeks, surely — and here’s hoping the millions of Gators fans who are Florida residents and projected to be affected by Hurricane Matthew will be able to worry about nothing more important than the ramifications of a cancelled football game.