LSU athletic director Joe Alleva called the situation concerning the Tigers' postponed and later rescheduled game with Florida "a joke" in behind-the-scenes emails.
Alleva also insinuated in emails obtained by ESPN that members of Florida's athletic department didn't want to play LSU when the original game was postponed due to Hurricane Matthew impacting Gainesville and the northeastern coast of Florida.
Officials from both Florida and LSU were already having contentious exchanges over how to make up the Oct. 8 postponement of the game in Gainesville, but Alleva's frustrations came to a head when he learned that the Georgia-South Carolina game, which was also affected by the storm, would be moved from Saturday to Sunday of the same weekend. Alleva voiced those frustrations in an email exchange with board of supervisors athletic committee chairman Blake Chatelain.
"This is a joke," Alleva wrote to Chatelain.
Chatelain then replied by asking Alleva if he thought Florida wanted to play as much as LSU did.
"Would they not ?" Chatelain asked in the email.
"No way if they lost they would lose the east. Their schedule [is] easier than Tennessee['s] if they wanted to play we would be playing here or there," Alleva wrote back.
LSU team spokesman Michael Bonnette also called the situation "a joke."
At the time, Florida's lone SEC loss came to Tennessee, which has since dropped back-to-back league games to Texas A&M and Alabama. Florida was also dealing with injuries at the time, most notably to starting quarterback Luke Del Rio who was recovering from a sprained knee. Backup Austin Appleby was the quarterback during the Gators' loss to Tennessee, but Florida coach Jim McElwain later stated that Del Rio would have started if the LSU game had been played on its original date.
On the Monday following the postponement, McElwain addressed criticism about whether his team wanted to play LSU that weekend.
"It shocks me that someone could actually think that way, especially knowing us," McElwain said during his Monday press conference.
"[There were] 19 deaths [in the United States], 2.5 million people without power. Families in dire needs. Obviously, they don't know me, they don't know the Florida Gators. They don't know our players.
"Dodging the game? Wow."
Days later, resolution finally came when the SEC announced that the game would be played in Baton Rouge on Nov. 19. Both schools would buy out the nonconference games already scheduled on that date -- Florida against Presbyterian and LSU against South Alabama. LSU would also have to play at Florida in 2017 and 2018.
Even this conclusion didn't come without more conflict from both sides. As options were laid out, Alleva continued to maintain that he would not give up LSU's home game on Nov. 19 or the Tigers' bye week before the Nov. 5 game against Alabama.
Late in the process, the SEC found an interpretation of the rules within its bylaws that essentially stated that in order for teams to participate in the SEC championship game in Atlanta, they had to play their eight scheduled league games. With that, Florida conceded, but not before outgoing athletic director Jeremy Foley had some choice words with LSU administrators.
"It was obvious that they were committed to that position and that it was going to be difficult to change that position, and therefore that we felt the only way to escape an even more difficult situation was to make the decision that we did," Foley said. "I think it would have been a huge mistake in my opinion, my staff's position and opinion, [Florida president] Dr. [Kent] Fuchs' position, for the University of Florida to draw a line in the sand, and then what would happen? And nothing good would have come out of that. At the end of the day, it's time to step up and do what you think is right and go play a football game."
The 15th ranked Gators (5-1, 3-1 SEC) play East rival Georgia (4-3, 2-3) in Jacksoville, Florida, at 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday. No. 19 LSU (5-2, 3-1) is on a bye as it prepares to host No. 1 Alabama (8-0, 5-0) on Nov. 5. A time for the rescheduled Florida-LSU game has not been announced, but the league has said that the game will kick no later than 3:30 p.m. ET.
Information from ESPN's Mark Schlabach was used in this report.
Our editors found this article on this site using Google and regenerated it for our readers.
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