It’s Friday morning and as predicted by forecasters, clearly Hurricane Matthew has caused wind and rain damage up the east coast of Florida. There will also be storm surge to contend with over the next 24 hours, flooding, power outage, along the coast, etc. Hundreds of thousands evacuated, and no one is minimizing the current fear and damage.
But, also as predicted, the storm has not come ashore doing more horrific damage to the state, so far.
Now onto college football.
And, as we learn more about the apparent bumbling of how outgoing Athletic Director Jeremy Foley and other University officials from Tuesday through Thursday afternoon’s decision to cancel Saturday’s game with LSU. we at F.F.I. are more and more dumbfounded.
Here is the late Thursday afternoon news conference where Foley recapped the previous two days almost blow by blow and the decision to not play the LSU-Florida game at all due to the threat of Hurricane Matthew. It was both confusing and contradictory:
— GatorVision (@GatorVisionTV) October 6, 2016
In that news conference, Foley correctly says that everyone’s safety and security is paramount. However, the confusing and contradictory part is that he and the University were adamant for two days to the SEC that the game could and would be played in Gainesville. And apparently, were unwilling to discuss or plan for any other contingency.
Foley’s own words were “we were only going to play this game in Gainesville.” How did the SEC on Wednesday and relatively new commissioner Greg Sankey, not step in and make a contingency plan?
Like, for example use Tampa 90 miles to the southwest and Raymond James Stadium, which was being inquired about for the movement of the FSU-Miami ACC game. Or, even telling both schools Wednesday to head to neutral site like Atlanta or Birmingham, or somewhere, to be ready to play Saturday or Sunday?
The league could have easily told LSU Tuesday night or Wednesday morning to send their equipment 18 wheeler towards Gainesville as planned and wait for updates along the way. And then, told the Tigers to “stand by” on flying their charter to Gainesville, Tampa or the neutral site on the day of the game.
This would have bought time and is exactly what the SEC and then commissioner, Mike Slive, did with the LSU game with Tennessee in 2005. Due to Hurricane Rita that September weekend, the conference told Tennessee to wait for constant updates and the Vols ended up coming in on Monday to Baton Rouge and playing a Monday night game.
And worse, if Foley and the Gators believed in their discussions of the last two days that LSU would somehow be cooperative and agree to a make-up date, that isn’t happening. And it could have an effect on the SEC East race eventually, too. The scenario exists that Tennessee could finish 6-2 in the East, Florida finishes 6-1 now and wins the division/goes to Atlanta.
The leverage that Florida and conference had was to force LSU to come somewhere safe to play this weekend while there was time to do so, or else. And it didn’t happen.
Twice in that presser Thursday, Foley quoted the cliche’ (that he says he and his staff operate by) “Hope for the best, but expect the worst.”
But clearly, by his own words, Foley was only hoping that Hurricane Mathew would not come close enough to North Florida and when the forecast didn’t change, they had no other plan.
So, they “threw their hands up” on Thursday afternoon and now LSU and Florida likely do not play at all in what could be a very significant game later in the standings for both.