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SEC actions labeled a joke in LSU emails over Florida game debacle

2 years 3 weeks 14 hours ago Tuesday, October 25 2016 Oct 25, 2016 October 25, 2016 8:55 PM October 25, 2016 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - Interoffice emails show LSU staff were frustrated with the handling of the postponed football contest against Florida earlier this month.

The game, originally scheduled for Saturday, October 8, was indefinitely postponed due to Hurricane Matthew. Eventually, it was announced, the game would be played in Tiger Stadium on November 19; canceling LSU's non-conference game against University of South Alabama. The October game was canceled at the last minute, prompting LSU officials such as Athletic Director Joe Alleva to chastise the Southeastern Conference and University of Florida athletic officials for their handling of the situation.

"Very frustrating," an email from "Blake Chatelain" opined in a chain of emails about the announcement of the Georgia vs. South Carolina game in South Carolina's capital city of Columbia being postponed a day due to weather. The exact email address used was redacted from the email, but there is a member of the LSU Board of Supervisors named R. Blake Chatelain. The email was sent to Alleva at 9:09 p.m. on October 6.

The emails are part of a public records request the WBRZ Investigative Unit made to LSU for emails pertaining to the LSU-Florida game being postponed. LSU provided 77 emails.  Most were mundane chatter about athletic business and few expressed any unusual amount of anger or frustration over the game being moved to Baton Rouge much later in the season. None showed any wheeling and dealing about when and where to play the game.

Although, in an exchange with Chatelain, Alleva suspected Florida knew avoiding a game with LSU secured their spot in a playoff.

"... If they lose they would lose the east. Their schedule is easier than Tennessee (sic) if they wanted to play we would be playing here or there," Alleva wrote after Chatelain questioned why Florida would want to avoid a game with the Tigers.

Chatelain wrote, "Florida would want to play as much as us... Would they not?"

Alleva initiated the conversation with Chatelain by writing, "This is a joke" when he forwarded news of the SEC announcing the Georgia-South Carolina contest had been delayed a day for the storm.

"What a joke," Michael Bonnette, the communications director for LSU Athletics, chimed in.

Other emails sent to LSU staff show fans wanted the Florida game played.  At least one person copied LSU employees on messages to the SEC.

One LSU fan wrote, "Who is ruining the SEC? Sorry, I meant running the SEC."

WBRZ obtains few interoffice emails from Florida, too

A day after publishing the original story about LSU's emails, Florida responded to a similar public records request filed by the Investigative Unit.  However, Florida officials provided fewer than half of the number LSU did.  The university said it was exempt from public records requests, although for transparency it provided some email exchanges.

"The University Athletic Association, Inc. is a direct-support organization of the University of Florida and, pursuant to Florida Statutes section 1004.28(5), its records are exempt from Florida's public records law," a communications specialist wrote in an email to WBRZ Tuesday morning.  But continued, "...we generally will provide non-confidential records or portions of records as an accommodation to the public."

The university provided 21 pages of emails, mostly chatter about business, and none were email exchanges over any specific plans to play LSU or reasons why there was a delayed decision in postponing the game. 

Two emails are of messages from upset football fans who thought Florida did not act swift enough with making a decision.  Others show Florida officials misspelled "Matthew" - using only one "T"  - and at least one staff writer confused hurricanes Matthew and Hermine. Click HERE to see the attached records provided to WBRZ by Florida. 

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Follow the publisher of this post on Twitter: @treyschmaltz

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