The Silver Lining: Joe Alleva’s potential long con, Gators’ running back indecisiveness

By Adam Silverstein
October 11, 2016
The Silver Lining: Joe Alleva’s potential long con, Gators’ running back indecisiveness

Image Credit: GatorVision

Welcome to The Silver Lining, my weekly column back after a few months hiatus to take a closer and/or quicker look at some hot topics surrounding the Florida Gators athletic program.

Is Joe Alleva running a long con?

Coverage of the Florida-LSU postponement has been incredibly one-sided and for an obvious reason — most of it has come out from those who sympathize with LSU or Tennessee or simply want to stir the pot. As I noted on Twitter, it is abundantly clear that the Tigers have made a concerted effort to enlist their local media to smear the Gators, knowing Florida is not one to use the media to fight its battles (more on that later).

And most of this has been mind-numbing, particularly from those who hold the belief that Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley (one of the most respected ADs in the nation over the last 25 years) got one over on new SEC commissioner Greg Sankey (the former Southland Conference commissioner who has been with the SEC since 2002 and running day-to-day operations since 2012). Let me clarify a couple things real quick. UF champions and doesn’t duck the LSU rivalry. Foley, while shrewd, is not a coward. Sankey is no rookie. Decisions made last week were made for the best possible reason: protecting the safety and health (mental and physical) of players.

What is not being discussed here — at all — is the role of LSU and its AD, Joe Alleva, in this entire situation. Let’s start with one very important fact: Alleva has a documented history of being opposed to his team’s annual SEC cross-division rivalry with Florida. He has not made this a secret and has gone so far as to nearly scream it from the mountaintops every time SEC schedules are discussed, which has been often recently.

Let’s also look at how the Tigers handled this situation. Taking LSU at its word, it reportedly offered to play Florida in Gainesville on Sunday or Monday. Nice gesture but not possible from UF’s perspective considering potential lack of security resources, family safety concerns, etc. stemming from the hurricane. The Tigers also saw an opportunity to add a home game to their slate by offering the Gators play in Baton Rouge. Again, impossible for Florida for the aforementioned reasons and others, such as short-notice travel and UF simply having no desire to give up a home game and the associated revenue.

Now the SEC is in a forced rescheduling situation. Foley has said the Gators want to play the game and are open to a variety of options. Sankey and SEC have said it is in the best interest of the teams and leagues to play the game. Alleva? He’s throwing up one roadblock after the next.

– Nov. 19: Alleva will not allow the SEC to buy out South Alabama so LSU can play at Florida, which has itself offered to buy out its game (or allow the SEC to do so) with Presbyterian that day. Why? He doesn’t want the Tigers to lose a home game. “One thing that we’re going to hold very firm on is that we have a home game Nov. 19th and we’re going to have a home game on Nov. 19th. … We are going to have a home game on Nov. 19th. We’re not going to change that situation,” he said. He even says he doesn’t care about the “lost” home revenue, which would all be paid for by the SEC’s insurance. “It’s not about that. It’s the fact that our fans, and this city, deserve to have a home game on that day. We’re not going to give up a home game.”

Notice, though, that Alleva is not saying “we’re going to have a home game on Nov. 19th with South Alabama.” It’s fair to wonder if he’s trying to put his foot down and get the SEC to buy out the games while forcing UF to travel to Baton Rouge. I wonder, even if the Gators agreed to that — like I’ve opined they should — if he would expect the Tigers to host them again in 2017. (A trade-off, in my opinion, should be required and could actually benefit UF, which would have an incredible home slate in 2017 and get back a lost game in The Swamp due to its neutral-site opener with Michigan.)

– Oct. 29: Not that Florida would be able to move its neutral-site rivalry game with Georgia, but Alleva even shut down the possibility of playing UF that Saturday as he does not believe giving up LSU’s bye week before the Alabama game would be fair … unless the Crimson Tide are forced to do the same thing as the Tigers. “We have an open date before the Alabama game. I’m not in favor of playing a game on that day, unless Alabama also plays a game on that day,” he said. Incredible. So Florida would lose its bye week and move up its rivalry game, but LSU would do nothing unless Alabama is also affected?

Here’s the point of all this: Alleva is completely unwilling to compromise. His comments are more like those of a sitting Congressman than a university’s athletic director. His party either gets exactly what it wants or nothing happens at all. And he’s not even doing this stonewalling in private behind closed doors. It’s all being played out publicly, making the SEC look like the Big 12 in the process.

Alleva repeats over and again how difficult it will be to play this game, purposely ignoring the fact that he’s the one being difficult in the first place. The motivation for Alleva to take advantage of the situation (not wanting the rivalry, adding a home game against a quality opponent that will draw better) is there. The motivation to compromise is not.

And then there’s this.

So is Alleva really trying to play this game? Or is he simply waiting this all out and playing the long con, allowing Florida to look like the bad guy and take the fall while getting what he really wants in the long run? Remember: UF could potentially benefit in the SEC East by not playing this game, but LSU has that same opportunity with the SEC West’s incredibly difficult schedule leaving the division open for the taking despite some early losses.

A communications issue

Florida’s athletic department has driven a wedge between itself and the local media in a variety of ways over the years, so many that getting into the details here would move attention off my ultimate point. Suffice to say, it is apparent that LSU has ingratiated itself more with its local media and provided enough access — even in turbulent times for the Tigers — that those covering its program are more than happy to go to bat for the administration both in columns and news stories, perhaps even without any prompting.

Forget the Gators not wanting to fight their battles in the media, Florida through its own actions can no longer expect the media to step up and do so for it without being asked or passed along information to help towards that end. In addition to disseminating information about your organization, the job of communications and media relations is to develop relationships with journalists in order to maximize positive coverage.

UF is currently struggling in that regard. The good news for the Gators, though, is that new AD Scott Stricklin understands how important that can be for an athletic program. Having previously served in such a role, Stricklin used that experience when he decided to stand face-to-face with journalists while getting grilled over Mississippi State allowing Jeffrey Simmons to enroll this past year. There are a lot of questions about how Stricklin will change Florida, but I have a feeling this is one area in which there could be marked improvement over the next couple of years. If not, it will be a continued slide in the wrong direction for Florida.

Pick a damn running back

The Gators’ depth chart ahead of their homecoming game was released on Monday, and wouldn’t you know it, the four-headed monster returns at running back.

This marks the first season since 2013 that Florida does not have a single player carrying the ball 50 percent of the time. Injury forced that to be the case that season, and the Gators ultimately finished 4-8. It also recently happened in 2010, when Florida finished 8-5 without a single rusher topping 600 yards.

By the way, head coach Jim McElwain keeps bringing up the 2010 Alabama team’s stable of running backs when discussing why he’s giving four players carries this year. Here’s what he fails to mention: Mark Ingram (158) and Trent Richardson (112) far and away got the most touches that year with Eddie Lacy (60) seeing his looks mostly in garbage time or when injury forced him in as the second back. The following season, Richardson (283) dwarfed Lacy (95), who actually averaged 1.2 yards per carry better. So yes, McElwain has had 3-4 running backs get touches before, but the disparity in touches at Florida isn’t helping anyone.

It is quite clear to those watching the Gators play that sophomore running back Jordan Scarlett should be getting the vast majority of the carries each week. And while there are some murmurs that McElwain will begin leaning that way this week, the fact that Florida does not have a defined starter at the position entering its sixth week of the season continues to be mind-numbing.

You know that old football saying: “If you have two quarterbacks, you actually have none?” Well, what if you have four running backs?

Not Only Gators: A tough decision

It was quite difficult to see Tiger Woods withdraw from the Safeway Open on Monday. His return to the sport of golf has been highly anticipated, of course, and at age 40, he only has so many months and years left to actually go out and legitimately compete. While it does not appear as if his health is a factor in this withdrawal, the fact that he’s returning from two more back surgeries is obviously concerning.

The good news here is that Woods claims this decision was made purely for competitive reasons. One of the things I’ve respected most about Woods the athlete is his mindset of playing to win. It’s not that he simply wants to win. He will not put himself in a competition unless he believes he is capable of winning. Hell, in his mind, he probably thinks he’s going to win every time he steps out there.

So if Woods has the yips or is struggling with those difficult in-between shots and needs a couple more months, hell, I can wait and golf fans everywhere can, too. Because when Tiger comes back, I just want to see glimpses of the greatness that once consumed the sport. And an occasional win or two would be nice.

This Week’s Movie Trailer

Fist Fight (2017)

The Top 5 List
From the home office in Wahoo, Nebraska …

Best new TV shows:
1. Atlanta
2. Westworld
3. Son of Zorn
4. Designated Survivor
4. High Maintenance

Still need to see: Luke Cage, Insecure, Better Things

Thanks for reading. Leave your comments below.


  1. SL says:

    I have been very critical in the past for the way Coach Mac has acted many in many of his press conferences. However I watched yesterday’s and thought he really did a great job when asked about the decision as well as his thoughts if there was any type of “motive” other than safety for the team and families. Also liked his honest anser about impact on recruiting as well.
    Made me think of how many families whom had to evacuate the coast and had to drive all the way to Gainesville to find a open room to sleep that otherwise would have been used for the game.
    Also very disappointed the SEC Comish as not come out and told LSU to stop playing different scenarios in the Media. I mean you’d never know LSU and UF are in the same darn conference.

  2. Mike says:

    I’ve heard a few people say that UF should play the game on Nov 19 in Baton Rouge. Why in the world would UF agree to that??? IMO, that’s the worst thing that could happen. They would be giving up TWO home games and rescheduling one of those to a very hostile environment where it would be super tough to win. Makes no sense for a team that still has a chance to win the SEC East. I hope the Gators stand their ground on this one and require that the game be played in Gainesville.

  3. SW FL Joe says:

    If I was Sankey I would tell Alleva that there will be a home game in Baton Rouge on 11/19. It will be South Alabama vs Presbyterian with proceeds to benefit the Red Cross. As for LSU, they will be in Gainesville on the 19th to face the Gators and if the don’t, they forfeit.

  4. MAR says:

    UF should just agree to go to BR and play the game. It would show that we just want to play. It would be better than no game. The biggest issue here is that the game is played, not where. There is no benefit to no game. Don’t care about the logistics and all the excuses. Bottom line is, the game needs to be played and we should be the “bigger” team and shut LSU’s whining by just going to BR. It would be a great game.

    • Tractorr says:

      I would be okay with that provided that Florida was able to sell the tickets that they would have for the Swamp. A week before the game any unsold tickets would be returned to LSU.

  5. MAR says:

    To me it comes down to a choice between playing in BR or not playing at all. The former trumps the latter.

    • Michael Jones says:

      Only if UF gets the game scheduled in BR next year moved to a home game in Gainesville. Then it would be a fair trade. Plenty of time to get that done. Otherwise, have to disagree with you.

      Home games matter. Can’t just cavalierly dismiss that because you want to see a game at all costs.

      Go Gators!!!

      • MAR says:

        Yes, they matter, but a hurricane stopped it from being played as scheduled. LSU is unwilling to bend. I would like to see UF be the team willing to make a sacrifice in order to keep order in the SEC standings. It’s just a college sport. We can get over losing a home game and having to play it elsewhere. Play the damn game.
        If the game is not played at all, nobody gains a thing. If it is played in BR, although not ideal for us, it will be one of the most watched games of the year. I don’t think we need to worry about next year’s schedule. It is THIS season we need to save by playing the football game wherever it may be. We should step up, be flexible, and show LSU just how bad we want to play them. Count up the lost home game to a hurricane. It happens.

  6. KB says:

    Luke Cage is awesome gotta check that out man. Falling Water seems pretty good but I’ve seen the only episode they have put out so far with the second episode coming on 10/13. The episode with the jail scene in Atlanta had me in stitches.

    My only complaint about the running back situation is that he does not seem to stick with the guy going the best in a particular game. I don’t find fault playing them all at first but come 3rd or 4th quarter ride the guy who is running the best. I would also love to see the O-line hold some blocks for more than a second with some consistency. That line would be well suited to have that dirt bag gritty dude out to pancake everybody that he has to block. Still got hope for this season and hopeful for more progression in all 3 phases though. We will see.

  7. Bobn says:

    LSU is behaving like some people do when they do not have a prayer in court, play it out in the court of public opinion; they hope to embarrass the other party into conceding. UF needs to hold their ground, we did all teh right things for the right reasons. Move on to the Mizzu game!

  8. 1974Gator says:

    The Silver Lining! it’s a major reason for me having subscribed to your site. Glad to see it back.

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