Finally, Florida-LSU is here — and the back story still is amazing

Tiger Stadium view

At long last, there will be a game.

After a bizarre, almost comical display of accusations rarely seen around a postponed college football game, the Florida-LSU you’re-afraid-to-play-us bowl finally is here. The Gators and Tigers meet Saturday in Baton Rouge.

For those who missed it – and count your blessings if you did – it went like this: The game was scheduled to be played in Gainesville on October 8, but Florida officials feared possible effects of Hurricane Matthew would make it tough to host the game. They pushed for a postponement, the SEC agreed. But LSU officials believed the game should have been played at some point that weekend and the accusations started flying.

LSU athletic director Joe Alleva held a news conference, then another, then another, went on at least one talk-radio show and wanted to make sure he told everyone who would listen that his side did everything it could to play the game. Soon thereafter, some members of the LSU media accused Florida AD Jeremy Foley of manipulating SEC commissioner Greg Sankey to get out of playing the game. The theory was that because Florida quarterback Luke Del Rio had a sore knee and some of the Gators’ defensive line was ailing, the Gators were trying to duck the Tigers.

RELATED: Florida-LSU was botched all around — even by TV

Foley held an initial news conference announcing the postponement, then stayed mostly silent. But some in the Florida camp were incredulous at the allegations and a belief developed that Alleva teed up his own media to push the “ducking” narrative. To some, that was confirmed when e-mails surfaced soon thereafter, in response to a public records request, in which Alleva told an LSU booster that Florida “didn’t want to play.”

Florida initially offered November 19 as a makeup date, with the Gators buying out the contract with non-conference opponent Presbyterian and LSU doing the same with South Alabama. But LSU would agree to that date only if the game was moved to Baton Rouge. Florida agreed, with the condition being that next season’s game, scheduled for Baton Rouge, would be in Gainesville. The result is that the teams will play back-to-back games in Baton Rouge followed by back-to-back games in Gainesville.

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