During Saturday’s game between Texas A&M and Tennessee, Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey spoke by phone with CBS broadcasters Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson about the postponed LSU-Florida game and his thoughts on a solution for rescheduling the game:
LUNDQUIST: Greg, can you just give us at this moment what the status of that game is?
SANKEY: Sure, first let me send my thoughts and prayers to all the people affected by this storm. It’s been a difficult week, obviously, as we celebrate football. The press release we issued on Thursday, Verne, after a long day and a lot of changes in forecast and a lot of movement was that the LSU-Florida game to be indefinitely postponed. We did acknowledge that we will seek another opportunity to play that game, that’s difficult. I said that on a conference call as we were nearing a destination point, but it’s important to play that game.
DANIELSON: Commissioner, my first question is, do you believe that no matter what, for the integrity of the championship for this league, that that game has to be played one way or another?
SANKEY: Well, the game needs to be played, Gary, and we need to work together to find a way to do that. This conference often describes itself as a family; a family has points of tension. We certainly understand the angst and frustration. I have my own level of angst, but we need to come together to play a football game and find the best way to do that.
DANIELSON: I think some of the confusion, Mr. Commissioner, is that a game in Miami was played and a game in our conference was played just north of it. How come, and it seems the cooperation was there, how come Florida and LSU — with the commissioner’s help — couldn’t get this game played this weekend?
SANKEY: Well, each of those is their own unique set of circumstances, and there is a point at which you needed to make some decisions. Thursday afternoon, that storm was strengthening and it was passing north of Miami by projections, yet Gainesville was well inside the hurricane zone. Emergency personnel were being pulled away that could staff that football game. You have to remember that security issues and demands are very different today than they were a year ago.
We didn’t know how players’ families would be impacted, we’re starting to see some of those stories, the university closed earlier than thought and will remain closed through Sunday and not (re-open) until Monday morning as they evaluate. And you had a bunch of evacuees that were moving from the coast into the Gainesville area. A number of those things are different than what we saw in Georgia-South Carolina where there was bus travel involved; they could secure space for the team to stay without displacing evacuees. Local emergency personnel were still available to staff the game, and we have to understand those things.
DANIELSON: Mr. Commissioner, what are the options now for you that you’re considering to play this LSU-Florida game, and when will that decision be made? Will it hang, or will it be made rather quickly?
SANKEY: We spent Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday in, if you will, crisis management. (Friday) was whiteboard day one, whiteboard day two, looking at all the options. There are a number of people who have their own options, we want to make sure we evaluate everything. We would like to move this along as efficiently as possible, Gary, but I’d be careful not to put a point in time where we can provide a definitive answer because there are a number of issues that have to be considered. But my desire is to see us play that game.
DANIELSON: Commissioner, a credited hallmark as your tenure as commissioner has been as an advocate for the safety of the players. If it’s moved to the 19th (of November), which has been a rumored date available, that would mean LSU has to play three road games, a Thursday night game and those players will have played SEC games on the road. I worry about the safety of those players playing those games — three games in 12 days.
SANKEY: Well, I want to be careful because there are a number of options, so it doesn’t narrow to just one — and there are a number of factors to consider.
DANIELSON: Both sides have advocates. Both sides are going to argue. You’re going to have Florida making arguments, LSU making arguments. Do you have the final authority to make a decision on this game?
SANKEY: Well, we need to come together Gary, and that’s reality. We need to come together and I am in a position to lead that effort. But we all have responsibility because this affects the entire conference.
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