Image Credit: GatorVision
Let’s just say the compromise between the Florida Gators and LSU Tigers to play their postponed game on Nov. 19 was completely one-sided.
“We made this decision to play the game in Baton Rouge. The conference office asked us to find a solution in working with LSU, yet LSU was never a true partner in our discussions,” explained Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley, who is retiring on Nov. 1, after it was announced that the Gators and Tigers would reschedule their postponed game for Nov. 19 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “The Southeastern Conference offered some other solutions and the LSU administration made it clear that they were unwilling to consider other reasonable options.”
The Gators have said from the beginning that they wanted to play the Tigers, though that has certainly not been the stance that LSU and AD Joe Alleva have taken during this entire situation.
After making his initial statement via press release along with the announcement, Foley held a press conference in Gainesville, Florida, to discuss the situation at hand. He spoke for nearly 20 minutes and answered every question posted to him but began the proceedings with a statement.
In part, Foley said the following:
“As we’ve indicated from day one, we would actively work with the SEC and LSU to reschedule the game, understanding the entire situation was not perfect. As the week progressed, however, it became abundantly clear it was going to be a difficult negotiation. LSU had drawn a line in the sand and was simply refusing to consider any other option that were presented except those that were consistent with the line they had drawn.”
“I have been part of this league for 40 years with the last 25 as athletic director of Florida. Through the years, I have been part of a number of difficult conversations that we discussed as a family. like all such conversations, there were differences but behind closed doors we were able to get to a good place as a league, a league that is very special to the University of Florida and very special to so many people. However, after a conference call yesterday between both schools, it was apparent that the only option that allowed this league to escape a very hard reality and move forward with our season was a concession made by Florida and that was to play this year’s game in Baton Rouge and next year’s in Gainesville.”
“The league is a family. Sometimes members of the family have to make a decision that is in the best long-term interest of the family. That is what makes this conference great, in my opinion. Working together has always been a par tof the culture of this league, and it must continue. Hopefully time can heal any wounds that exist; it usually does.”
You see how little respect people have for Joe Alleva that Jeremy Foley would publicly blast him in that manner.
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) October 13, 2016
Foley went on to express his surprise that the entire process was so “difficult,” particularly due to LSU’s proverbial line in the sand approach.
“I was surprised it became difficult. I’ve been in a lot of difficult conversations in this league on a lot of different subjects, and most of the time you get to a good place and it’s not as difficult as it may appear. And this one was difficult,” Foley said.
Ultimately though, Foley said the Gators desired to do what they felt was in the best interest of the Southeastern Conference and not just Florida. As far as LSU? “I would not want to guess what their motivation was, but obviously as I said earlier, it was apparent it was going to be a difficult negotiation, and it was,” Foley added.
It is for that reason that the Gators did not follow suit with such an ultimatum.
“It would’ve been a huge mistake … for the University of Florida to draw a line in the sand. Then what do we have? Nothing good would have come out of that. At the end of the day, it’s time to step up, do what’s right and go play a football game. It’s less than perfect,” he explained.
Foley also took issue with anyone who believed that Florida was somehow trying to dodge the game.
“I’ve been surprised about that all week. I get the importance of football — no one is a bigger football fan than myself — and I understand how important football is to the Southern Conference and the South; we had a Category 4 hurricane headed this way. [It] could’ve been catastrophic to the state. It was difficult enough for so many people. To think that we were trying to not play a football game for any reason, it just doesn’t make any sense to me,” he explained. “It’s almost as if the worst had happened, everybody could understand why we did what we did.”
On Wednesday, head football coach Jim McElwain shared a similar sentiment:
“As I’ve said all along, we will play anyone, anywhere, anytime. I think I’ve made that pretty clear. The Gators never run from anyone or dodge anyone.”
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, who provided no similar statement about LSU, offered some praise to Florida for its move. “In the end, I want to give credit to the University of Florida for making concessions to move this year’s game to Baton Rouge,” he said.
Foley called Sankey’s efforts tireless, noting that he was working towards a resolution for quite some time with no movement from LSU until Florida stepped up.