commentary Mike Bianchi in the Sentinel Selfishness derails the UF-FSU rivalry A question for Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey, whose league earlier this week announced it will play a 10-game conference-only schedule that effectively killed the Florida-Florida State rivalry for this season. In explaining the SEC’s decision earlier this week, Sankey said, “The new schedule supports the safety measures that are being taken by each of our institutions to ensure the health of our campus communities.” OK, here’s the question: What does playing a conference-only schedule have to do with safety? Actually, I have a second question: How is it safer for the Florida Gators to fly to Arkansas or Texas A&M rather than simply bus to Tallahassee for a game this season? The SEC’s unilateral decision to not only kill the Florida-Florida State rivalry but also Clemson-South Carolina, Georgia-Georgia Tech and Louisville-Kentucky is just another example of the selfishness that pervades Power 5 college football. Guys in suits make decisions that rob fans at eight institutions of their most emotional game of the season. I realize that these are unprecedented times when all businesses are having to make tough and unpopular decisions. And, yes, we all know that the SEC’s decision for a 10-game season could just be foolish dreaming because there might not even be a college football season. Let’s be real, shall we? If Major League Baseball shuts down — and there are reports that commissioner Rob Manfred is considering shuddering his sport unless teams can better manage the coronavirus — college football is doomed. If professional leagues can’t manage playing a sport outside of a bubble, then the college boys can forget about it. But if there is a college football season, the SEC’s decision — which could have easily been avoided — already has sucked much of the joy out it for many Floridians. Florida-Florida State is the most important game in our state. The annual Sunshine State sizzler between Florida’s two most storied and traditional public land-grant institutions has been played for 62 straight years dating to 1958. “[Playing] FSU was a priority, but because of where the league landed, we’re not going to be able to do that,” UF athletics director Scott Stricklin said after the SEC made its decision. “We look forward to playing that game every year and have had some success in recent years playing it. “We were looking forward to playing [FSU] again this year,” he added. “We’re just not going to because of circumstances beyond our control. We’ve got a virus that has changed a lot of things. This is unfortunately one of them. So really disappointed in that. Wish there was a way we could figure that out, but we’ll respect the decision we made as a league.” Actually, there was a way to figure this out, but the SEC majority voted against it. Not because of the ridiculous notion being floated by delusional ACC fans that the SEC is trying to duck the ACC — puh-leeze! — but because 10 of the 14 SEC teams don’t have a traditional rival in the ACC. Still, this could have easily been resolved in a number of ways if the conferences had only worked together. Give the ACC credit for doing its best to try to save Florida-Florida State and the three other SEC-ACC rivalries. The day before the SEC made its decision, the ACC announced it would play a 10-game conference schedule but also allow for one nonconference game as long as the nonconference game was played within the state of the ACC institution. It was a clever way to salvage the four traditional ACC-SEC in-state rivalries. Or, better yet, the SEC could have played just a nine-game conference schedule and allowed for one nonconference game. And for those 10 SEC teams that don’t have state rivals in the ACC, they could have just taken the last week of the season off … or scheduled another home game against a team from a Group of 5 league … or scheduled a game against another ACC opponent … or even scheduled another SEC game but not counted it in the official conference standings. There were multiple ways the SEC and ACC could have collaborated for the common good and worked to give fans the historic, euphoric rivalries they enjoy so much. Contrary to popular belief, the Florida-Florida State game was not a victim of the coronavirus. It was a victim of the deep-rooted selfishness and every-conference-for-itself mentality that continues to infect big-time college football. Email me at mbianchi @orlandosentinel.com. Hit me up on Twitter @BianchiWrites and listen to my Open Mike radio show every weekday from 6 to 9 a.m. on FM 96.9 and AM 740.