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With hard feelings, Gators, LSU to play makeup game Nov. 19 in Baton Rouge

LSU's  Kenny Hilliard gains yards during a 2014 victory over the Gators in Gainesville. [EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]

LSU's Kenny Hilliard gains yards during a 2014 victory over the Gators in Gainesville. [EVE EDELHEIT | Times]
Published Oct. 14, 2016

The SEC resolved the scheduling debacle between Florida and LSU on Thursday, but the bitter feelings aren't going anywhere.

A week after Hurricane Matthew postponed the Gators-Tigers game, the league announced that the teams will meet on Nov. 19. But instead of playing in Gainesville as originally scheduled, UF will travel to Baton Rouge.

"As I have repeatedly said, this game needed to be played," SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement. "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."

Not that the Gators were happy about it.

Retiring athletic director Jeremy Foley said in a statement that "LSU was never a true partner in our discussions." In an evening news conference, he said the Tigers drew a line in the sand and refused to budge.

"This one was difficult," Foley said.

The No. 18 Gators lose two home games from an already lackluster slate as a result of the decision — the LSU game that was supposed to be played last week and the Nov. 19 game against Presby­terian that had to be canceled for about $500,000. Insurance from the SEC and "other financial incentives" will cover lost revenue from those games, UF said in its statement.

Ticket holders will have charges for the canceled games applied as credits for next year, or they can request a refund by Oct. 28.

UF's announcement also included a line that the game will be played no later than 3:30 p.m. That avoids a night game in Tiger Stadium, one of the most electric environments in college football.

Canceling the LSU game altogether wasn't an option. Critics charged that Florida was trying to avoid the game to boost its chances of defending the SEC East, but that was impossible: Teams must play all eight conference games to be eligible to compete for the conference title, according to the league.

LSU hoped to play last week and offered to host the game, but Florida wanted to play in Gainesville. The Tigers insisted on hosting a game Nov. 19 as a way to help a local economy that was devastated by flooding in August.

LSU had been scheduled to host South Alabama, which will receive $1.5 million as a result of the cancellation. With the move of the Florida game, the Tigers now avoid playing three consecutive SEC road games over a 13-day span to end the regular season.

Because no other date before the Dec. 3 SEC title game made sense, the only option was the one announced Thursday.

UF will host LSU on Oct. 7, 2017 and again in 2018 before the teams resume the previous scheduling rotation.

"As I've said all along — we will play anyone, anywhere, anytime," UF coach Jim McElwain said in a statement. "The Gators never run from anyone or dodge anyone."

The decision also affects the Gators' previously scheduled senior day. That should move to Nov. 12 against South Carolina, so players' final home game will come against Will Muschamp, the coach who recruited them to UF in the first place.

The drama drew national attention and will cause some institutional changes. The SEC announced that the schools' presidents and chancellors "have established the expectation" to revise league policies on postponing games and potentially allow the commissioner to reschedule games if the teams can't agree on a date.

Foley said what bothers him most is the lost economic impact for Gainesville, but "nothing good would have come" from UF drawing its own hard-line stance.

"Hopefully time can heal any wounds that exist," Foley said. "It usually does."

But this one might take awhile.

Contact Matt Baker at mbaker@tampabay.com. Follow @MBakerTBTimes.