By JOHN FINERAN
How many of you have been spending a lot of your overnights tossin’ and turnin’ in bed?
Go ahead and raise your hands because you have company.
We have a lot on our minds right now, and those thoughts just don’t seem to go away when you close your eyes and ask Mr. Sandman to give you a peaceful evening of golden slumbers.
There’s the ongoing debate of which of two uninspiring, major-party candidates to vote for on Nov. 8to become the 45th President of the United States of America.
And, of course, there’s the Chicago Cubs, who have not raised their index fingers in victory because they’ve been getting baseball’s middle finger since last winning a World Series in 1908.
And as an unabashed fan of college football, having seen games played from sea to shining sea and from wall-less border to wall-less border, even those sweet dreams of late have been disrupted.
Why? Because Florida and Louisiana State couldn’t seem to agree on a makeup date for their scheduled Oct. 8 game in Gainesville postponed by Hurricane Matthew, which left death and destruction everywhere it wandered from the Caribbean to off the North Carolina coast.
From my vantage point in Northern Indiana, Florida and LSU were acting like a couple of crazy-talking kids who needed someone even crazier to come up with a solution.
So I’ll go ahead because they’ve have made my day. You want solutions? I’ll give you solutions:
- Since the teams didn’t share an open date – Florida’s is Oct. 22 and LSU’s a week later when Florida and Georgia renew their civil war in hurricane-recovering Jacksonville – the logical remake date is Nov. 19, when both were scheduled to play host to cannon fodder – FCS Division member Presbyterian was to visit Gainesville for a $500,000 check and Sun Belt member South Alabama was to travel to Baton Rouge for $1 million more.
- After making Presbyterian and South Alabama financially whole, throw them some more bones – encourage them to play each other and play the game on the SEC Network, which likely would have televised either or both of their originally scheduled games. And ask the NCAA to provide a waver to South Alabama if it needed one to be officially bowl eligible.
- Thus freed up, here’s the craziest solution of all. With LSU athletic director Joe Alleva and Florida’s Jeremy Foley, who retires Nov. 1, both not wanting to give up a home game, let the rescheduled Nov. 19 game start at noon and be split in two – the first half being played in Baton Rouge, and after two separate charter flights, the second half in Gainesville.
Too crazy, you say? Not in the eye of this beholder who has seen the money the SEC seemingly prints 24 hours a day seven days a week.
Instead, Alleva and Foley, with SEC commissioner Greg Sankey holding their hands, finally worked out a deal. The Gators give up two home games – the postponed LSU date and the Presbyterian game – and will play LSU in Baton Rouge on Nov. 19. In exchange, LSU comes to Gainesville in 2017 and ’18.
At first glance, it looks like SEC and LSU benefit more than Florida. It’s not the ride into the sunset that Foley, whose last day is Nov. 1, would have wanted, and it seemed like he wanted folks to believe his last ride would be taken on the high road.
“”We made this decision to play the game in Baton Rouge,” Foley said in a statement. “The conference office asked us to find a solution in working with LSU, yet LSU was never a true partner in our discussions. The Southeastern Conference offered some other solutions and the LSU administration made it clear that they were unwilling to consider other reasonable options.”
The SEC 2016 schedule, of course, is made whole, thus assuring that all teams will play eight league contests. Only teams that play eight conference games would have been eligible to play for the SEC Championship Dec. 3 in Atlanta.
LSU doesn’t have to play three road games in 13 games at Arkansas (Nov. 12), Florida (Nov. 19) and Texas A&M (Nov. 24). And with Florida coming to Baton Rouge on Nov. 19 to replace South Alabama, area businesses, affected by flooding earlier this summer, don’t take any further financial hits.
That’s not the case for hotels and restaurants in Gainesville, which will suffer. Insurance payouts from the SEC, along with other financial help, will cover Florida’s lost revenues.
The acrimony, however, remains, if you carefully read into what Florida coach Jim McElwain had to say: “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.”
Makes you want to run through a wall or a door, just as long as there’s a bed on the other side.
I don’t know about you, but I’ll rest a little easier – at least until the Cubs play or until Hillary and Donald meet again.
(John Fineran has covered sporting events for more than 40 years for newspapers in Michigan, Indiana, Florida and his native New Jersey and losing a lot of sleep doing so. After covering Florida’s victory over Oklahoma in the FedEx BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 8, 2009, he wrote until well past 4 a.m. at Dolphin Stadium – and forgot where he parked his car.)