Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley, Who Is Retiring, Is Not The Retiring Type When It Comes To The Rescheduling Of The Gators Postponed Game With LSU. And Tigers A.D. Joe Alleva Isn’t So Shy, Either. The Grudge Match Between The Two Continues To Simmer. Both A.D.’s Try To Show Who’s Got The Bigger Stick. Buddy Martin Addresses The On-Going Issue
By BUDDY MARTIN
A feud still sizzles and grudges are being held about the scheduled Nov. 19 Florida vs. LSU game at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge.
Pure contempt has been fostered by the way the rescheduling of the Oct. 8 game was handled. Translated: Because of these bad feelings, LSU is now going on the Gator hit-list as an authentic rival.
I can’t speak for Tiger Nation, but as far as the Gators are concerned, Joe Alleva is a spoiled brat who owes them one.
I didn’t like the way negotiated outcome of the Florida-LSU game was adjudicated in the first place and still can’t understand the apparent Cajun math that was applied to score the balance sheet. And somehow I’ve just got a bad feeling that karma is going to kick somebody’s butt. No team should ever tempt their fate with the football gods.
Hurricane Matthew came roaring up the coast of Florida — and then it gets murky about who said what. But the suggestion that Jeremy Foley and Florida used Matthew as a chip to negotiate for more time because of injuries to Jim McElwain’s team is Walt Disney-like fantasy.
Alleva took his football and went home. Henry Kissinger wasn’t available, so Foley filled in for him.
Somehow on Alleva’s calculator, it was unfair for LSU to lose that Nov. 19 home game, whether it was South Alabama or Florida coming to Baton Rouge. But not unfair for Florida to lose a pair of home games for 2016 on an already weak home schedule for the Gators.
As a matter of fact, had it been known just how critical the outcome of that Gators-Tigers matchup would be, maybe they would have gotten an independent counsel to arbitrate it.
Riddle me this: How can it be fair that in 2016 Florida lost two home games and LSU none?
Meanwhile, somehow LSU has played its way — or talked its way — into a contender role in the SEC West, although it is suspected that the Joel Osteen-like optimism of interim coach Ed Orgeron could run out of gas at the hand of a Crimson Tide beating.
It may turn out that the LSU-Florida game could have a major impact the SEC and national championship playoffs. And yes, I realize there’s that huge roadblock called Alabama in the way for both teams.
Alleva blamed Foley for not being able to play like Jim Cantore and predict that the weather would be OK for that Saturday, Oct. 8 in Gainesville. And Alleva wanted the game to be played in Tiger Stadium Saturday, Sunday or Monday. As as if that would be a fair equivalent.
Without Foley’s sense of fairness, they might still be talking about playing the LSU-Florida game in the middle of Interstate 10 halfway between Baton Rouge and Gainesville.
Only because of Foley’s magnanimous gesture of putting self-serving greed aside in the best interest of the conference did this game survive on life support long enough until some sort solution could be negotiated. As it turns out, it was dictated by SEC policy that the game must be played. After weeks of failed negotiations, the game was still stalemated, stuck in limbo as a casualty of Hurricane Matthew.
Meanwhile, as he turned out the lights, so to speak, Monday on his brilliant career as CEO of UF sports, Foley’s accomplishments shone brightly, like a super nova.
Let’s go ahead and call that Nov. 19 game The Foley Bowl, because a lot of people should pay homage to the former Florida Athletic Director for his willingness to come back to the table with a petulant Alleva.
We can point fingers and take sides and assign blame, but the truth is that when the smoke finally cleared, we needed only to listen to the comments of Sankey:
“As I have repeatedly said, this game needed to be played. 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.”
Noticeably absent was Sankey’s kudo for Alleva and LSU.
Foley made it clear that it been a one-way negotiation.
“The conference office asked us to find a solution in working with LSU, yet LSU was never a true partner in our discussions,” Foley said candidly. “The Southeastern Conference offered some other solutions and the LSU administration made it clear that they were unwilling to consider other reasonable options.”
I met Joe Alleva for the first time this summer and we enjoyed an unscheduled breakfast with he and his wife Annie. He is a former colleague of Steve Spurrier’s at Duke who acceded to the throne at LSU in 2008. Seemed like a decent guy, but clearly the heat has been on him for more than a year.
One year ago, the governor of Louisiana and Alleva’s school president feigned threats of dropping football at LSU because of an economic crisis. You know: The sky was falling. Secondly, LSU botched the hiring of Jimbo Fisher, who may or may not have said no. But clearly the $10 million-plus buyout of Les Miles came at a bad time in the economic cycle, so LSU waited a few weeks until the next year when Miles lost to Auburn and then fired him. Early in the season. Go figure.
Then it all came out in the minutes of a board meeting that Alleva said: “If they (Florida) wanted to be play we would be playing here or there.”
This was one of the SEC’s ugliest moments. The insensitivity of putting a football game ahead of public safety — not to mention accusing a colleague of hiding behind it — for a conference that has always prided itself on brotherhood and sisterhood was made a mockery.
After he packed up his boxes Monday and prepared to move upstairs and make way for new Florida AD Scott Stricklin, Foley was interviewed on The Paul Finebaum Show. As Foley reflected on the matter, he said that the SEC braintrusts always took pride in the way they came to the table to resolve issues.
But this disagreement, said Foley, LSU was “not SEC-like in terms of the way we work together in a big family.”
To the end, Foley was trying to defend the last vestige of SEC altruism in a league where money has been ruling the day.
“I wanted to make sure we didn’t lose that, because it’s one of the great attributes of the Southeastern Conference,” he said.
It was his last official day on the job, but not the end of his reign. And by the way, he walked away with his football team ranked among the nation’s Top Ten, poised to win the SEC East.
Actually, I don’t think Foley turned out the lights in his office at all, because he still seems to have a sense of unfinished business.