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Winners and losers of Gators game switch to LSU

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So the Gators will be playing at LSU after all. Despite a firm assurance the game would only be played in The Swamp, Florida will be traveling in the direction of a real swamp in Louisiana.

It has been an acrimonious two weeks between two of the SEC’s top programs. If a detailed account described in a Fox Sports publication called Outkick the Coverage accurately describes the last 10 days, Florida does not come off well.

It details LSU providing several seemingly reasonable options before Hurricane Matthew hit for keeping the game in Gainesville, along with the unappetizing offer to host the game. Florida’s outgoing athletic director Jeremy Foley, who was adamant about keeping the game in Florida, laid much of the blame on LSU and his counterpart, Joe Alleva.

“We made this decision to play the game in Baton Rouge,” said Foley. “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.”

Funny, but that’s kind of similar to what LSU was saying about Florida. The bottom line is Florida will host the Tigers for two consecutive years, but that won’t heal some of the wounds opened by this event.

As with any dispute, there are winners and losers. Here is this observer’s take:

Winners

LSU and interim coach Ed Orgeron. They get another home game that could help them finish higher than many would have expected after two early losses. Orgeron desperately wants the gig full time and finishing strong would be a big step in that direction.

City of Baton Rouge. After a devastating flood this summer, an extra home game is worth millions of dollars to their economy. This is what one would call a windfall.

Joe Alleva. The LSU athletic director got the better end of this deal and seems to be winning the public relations battle as well.

Leonard Fournette. The Tigers’ star running back was set to miss the game in Gainesville with a bum ankle, but should be ready to go by the time the two teams square off.

Presbyterian. They get a $500,000 buyout for the scheduled Nov. 19 game in Gainesville without taking the beating that was sure to come. What’s more, they are reportedly looking to play South Alabama, the team dumped by LSU, on that now-open date.

Losers

Gators and Gator Fans. Players, coaches, and fans were psyched to play the Tigers at home and had the schedule set up to play a cupcake (Presbyterian) the week before the game in Tallahassee with FSU. Now, Florida will have two brutal road games to finish the season. Only one home game remains after Saturday’s game with Missouri.

Gainesville and Alachua County economy. For all the reasons Baton Rouge is a winner, Gainesville is a loser times two. They not only lose the millions of dollars in economic impact for the LSU game, but the home date on Nov. 19 is now also lost. It is a real blow to them.

Jeremy Foley. Making this deal after vowing to keep the game in Gainesville has to be a tough pill to swallow, especially since Foley is nearing the end of his tenure as athletic director. If the Fox Sports account is accurate, it did not have to happen.

SEC. This spat damaged the league’s country club of gentlemen. The wounds can be felt just through Foley’s statement announcing the deal, who felt it was an ultimatum. This isn’t over.

SEC’s insurance provider. Reports are the Gators will be made whole through insurance for losing the revenue from a home game. The conference should expect their premiums to rise next year.

 

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Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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