As I’m sure you all know, last night’s Florida-Idaho season opener was postponed indefinitely because of what the UAA deemed to be “unsafe, unplayable field conditions” (and they’re certainly not wrong. Anybody else see the tsunami that the aptly named Valdez Showers generated after being tackled on the sidelines at the end of his kick return?). But there’s another, particularly nasty effect to it.
Thanks to Mother Nature, Gator fans- who have been waiting to see the Gators win like expectant fathers and grandparents for 11 months- will have to wait another week to see the Gators play football.
Alright, technically that’s not true:
— #InAllKindsOfWeather (@AllKindsWeather) August 31, 2014
I only embedded that vine because I know how starved Gator Nation is for some, any, action on the football field after what happened last year. Unfortunately that one play is easily the most insignificant play in Gator football history because it’s not going to count in any official way, which segues nicely into the rest of this article.
Over the past 24 hours, tons of Gators fans have each been asking tons of questions- to the UAA, to me, and to each other- about what happens next with the Florida-Idaho game that got terminated (which sounds so much cooler than rained out, or suspended). I’m not exactly the guy who makes the decisions, and I don’t know a lot, but I do know a little bit, straight from the UAA. Here are some of the most prevalent questions flying around Gator Nation, and either the answer, or my best guesses:
Why can’t Florida and Idaho just play tonight or tomorrow?
That would be because the entire Idaho team immediately fled town. Kind of hard to play a game without the other team there, unless you want to substitute tackling dummies for the Idaho players (insert “what’s the difference” joke here).
What are the options for what happens next with this game?
Per Richard Johnson of the Florida Alligator, Florida’s officially got four options:
1) Resume at later date;
2) Terminate the game with a determined final score;
3) Forfeit of the game; or
4) Declare a no contest.
Choices two and three are not plausible options for this particular scenario; those choices were installed into the handbook for a situation like the one we had in 2007, where Florida was bludgeoning Western Kentucky 49-3 early in the fourth quarter and then the weather kicked in. Due to the ferocity of the beat down, 49-3 instantly became the final score. In a way, two and three are basically the same option; WKU knew they were getting pounded and said screw this, we’ve had enough. Thus, Jeremy Foley magnanimously agreed to call off the dogs.
But Florida never got the chance to run up a gigantic lead on Idaho, and thus, the Vandals are never going to forfeit the game because the possibility of a seismic upset is never something you want to give up, especially against a school that only last year lost to Georgia Southern after paying them big bucks to come and play. Similarly, the only final score the two teams could possibly agree on is 0-0, and Florida really doesn’t want a tie on their season resume regardless of the circumstances.
So there are two options: cancel the game and declare it a no contest, or reschedule for October 25, when both teams have bye weeks.
What is the best option for Florida?
This depends on who you ask, but when putting myself in Jeremy Foley’s shoes, I come up with the following solution: call the game a no-contest, reschedule the Vandals for another year and play 11 games this year.
I’ll go into much greater detail on this tomorrow, but the short answer as to why is this: Florida gets two cupcake games before the real games start anyway, as Eastern Michigan is another gimme game and Kentucky scares me a millionth of whatever unit of measurement you want to use for fear more than Eastern Michigan. Also, October 25 is the week before Georgia, and having a bye week before that game is something we Gator fans have cherished since we first had it. Do remember the situation in 2004, where the season opener against Middle Tennessee State was postponed to the week before we played Georgia… and then the Bulldogs beat us for one of their three wins from 1990-2010. I do NOT want to waste that much needed bye week on a meaningless game with a high risk (player injury) and little reward (not an SEC game, not a rivalry game like FSU/Miami, etc).
And also, think about this: a third cupcake game to start a season adds more risk for injury in a game that wouldn’t matter, and after last year, that is NOT something I want to toy with. Two easy games before the hard games is the perfect amount; not too much, but enough that the players will get their feet wet and have enough experience with the new offense.
The only possible down side to not playing that 12th regular season game is that it could potentially affect Florida’s bowl game chances, but that would only happen if this team is much worse than I anticipate them being in my worst nightmares. Plus, if Florida winds up 5-6 instead of 6-6 with that extra win over Idaho and thus doesn’t get to a bowl game, reach deep down into your brain, your heart, and your gut, and ask yourself this: do we really deserve to be in a bowl game in the first place?
But it’s not going to come to that. I refuse to believe this team even flirts with bowl-ineligibility. #RevengeTourUF and such.
When are we going to know anything?
By Wednesday at the latest, possibly on Tuesday. The UAA said they would know something within two or three days, but that’s at the latest. The two schools will begin talks Tuesday (remember, Idaho is two hours behind Florida).
What’s eventually going to happen?
From what the UAA has said, here’s my best guess for what will happen. The game is declared a no-contest. Jeremy Foley is smart; he understands the disadvantages of playing this game the week before Georgia, and Idaho isn’t exactly chomping at the bit to jump back on the plane and fly more than five hours and 2,000 miles to Gainesville for a second time just to get blown out.
But having said that, I will also add this: the fact that the UAA has said that they won’t know anything for a few days, combined with the fact that they’ve tweeted about the possibility of rescheduling, shows that they’re at least willing to consider it. They did pay Idaho just shy of a million dollars to come and play; hence the hesitation to just waste it.
Again, though, the Gators could very well just reschedule Idaho for another year, and negotiate a very favorable payout for that trip back to the Swamp. Maybe something like this: Keep your $975K, our treat, come back in five years for $25K and we’ll call it even. Or something like that. I have no idea of the numbers, so $25K could be way more than Florida’s willing to pay Idaho, or maybe Idaho wants way more than that. Or maybe Idaho just comes back for free if UF pays for their plane fuel and hotel rooms. I don’t know anything in that department. But my guess is something in that ballpark.
Where does this leave Florida for the rest of the season?
In basically an identical position to the one they’re usually in: two cupcakes to start the year, and then the real opponents come in. This year was unique because Tennessee was scheduled in October for the first time in my lifetime. The Vols haven’t exactly been world beaters in recent years, but Florida does have to take them seriously. Not so with Kentucky, who plays the part of the Gators’ second “we’ll take the win thank you very much” game of the season.
Again, the only difference is the fact that it could hurt Florida’s bowl chances if they’re on the brink, but if it gets to that point, there are going to be much more pressing issues among Gator fans than “Why didn’t we just play that f*cking game against Idaho?” (which I’m already hearing a TON of on social media). Here’s a hint: they will involve our current, and potential next, head coach.