Florida and LSU will play in 2016 after all.
The schools are set to face each other on Nov. 19 at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge and will be under the terms of an agreement announced by SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey on Thursday.
The announcement comes one week after the game was postponed by Hurricane Matthew.
“It was important for us to come to a resolution," Sankey said in a statement. "Each university had its own set of concerns throughout this process, however existing SEC regulations did not provide an avenue to resolve conflicting issues in a more timely manner. 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.”
Both teams and the SEC worked to reschedule the game, but Florida athletics director Jeremy Foley made it clear the program was unhappy with the ultimatum the Gators were dealt, making a pointed comment directed at LSU.
"We made this decision to play the game in Baton Rouge," Foley said in a statement provided by the school. "The conference office asked us to find a solution in working with LSU, yet LSU was never a true partner in our discussions. The
The teams had to buy out nonconference opponents scheduled for that Saturday: South Alabama for LSU and Presbyterian for Florida.
The arrangement means the No. 25 Tigers (3-2, 2-1 SEC) will avoid playing three consecutive SEC road games over a 13-day span to end the regular season; LSU was already scheduled at Arkansas on Nov. 12 and at Texas A&M on Nov. 24.. The No. 14 Gators (4-1, 2-1) will lose two homes games — about $7.8 million in projected revenue from ticket sales alone — but likely will recoup some of that through insurance.
"LSU and Florida will exercise cancellation clauses for those respective game," the SEC's release said. This means LSU will have to pay South Alabama a $1.5 million buyout fee, and Florida will have to pay Presbyterian a $500,000 buyout fee. There is a chance South Alabama and Presbyterian could schedule a game on November 19.
On Monday, LSU athletic director Joe Alleva insisted his program would not relinquish its scheduled home date on Nov. 19 to play in Florida because he did not believe it was fair to LSU fans and the Baton Rouge area to do so after LSU had made every effort to have last weekend’s game played either in in Gainesville on Sunday or Monday, or in Tiger Stadium.
In discussing his disappointment that the game was not played last weekend, Alleva essentially expressed consternation over the fact that Florida held out for a Saturday game in Gainesville last week until Thursday, when the storm’s track made it too late to do anything but postpone the game to another week.
LSU also agreed to play in Gainesville instead of Baton Rouge in 2017, which gets the Gators one game back. That means Florida will host rivals Tennessee, LSU and Florida State next season. In 2018, the annual Tigers-Gators match-up will return to Florida again, as it normally would.
Alleva released a statement Thursday evening:
“We are happy with the decision to have our game against Florida rescheduled for November 19 in Tiger Stadium. As previously reported, it was our wish to have played the game last weekend but all options that we put on the table were declined. After extensive discussion, the University of Florida agreed to play the 2016 contest in Baton Rouge and LSU agreed to play the 2017 game in Gainesville.
“I want to thank the Southeastern Conference, in particular Commissioner Greg Sankey, for his efforts to make sure that we found a place on the schedule to play the game. This is a game that our players and fans look forward to each year and we are appreciative of the lengths that our league office went to in order to make this game happen.“Historically, we have always enjoyed a great relationship with Florida. We have great respect for their institution and their football program. I hope that we can all learn from this experience and as a league, be in a better position to deal with these situations in the future.”
Under SEC Commissioner Regulations, only teams that play all eight conference games would be eligible to play in Atlanta for the SEC Championship.
"As I've said all along — we will play anyone, anywhere, anytime," Gators coach Jim McElwain said in a statement. "I think I've made that pretty clear. The Gators never run from anyone or dodge anyone."
Contributing: The Associated Press