I do a lot of driving. To pass the time I listen to everything from audio books to music to talk radio. Today I was listening sports talk radio. They were debating whether there should be some sort of spring college football season which I think is absurd. However, it did bring up another possibility that I think should be strongly considered.
Let me begin by pointing out that the Alabama spring game on ESPN2 drew more viewers than ANY NHL playoff game so far. This is a spring game. A practice scrimmage where Alabama players line up against Alabama players with nothing on the line except the battle for playing time come fall. And more people took time to watch it on TV than care about an entire sport’s playoffs. That tells you just how much love there is for college football. Personally, I have watched all or part of six different school’s spring games in just the last two weeks.
Stop and think what this says about the potential audience for something closer to REAL college football in the spring. Imagine if instead of meaningless scrimmages against your own players, these teams actually played a spring scrimmage game against another school. This is preferable to the current method in so many ways.
Right now, there is a very strong limit to what the spring game actually reveals to all involved, players, coaches and fans. Because anything your offense accomplishes is at the expense of your defense and vice versa. In fact, most coaches choose to hamstring the defense in order to make the offense look better and excite the fan base. This becomes unnecessary against an actual opponent. Coaches can get a better understanding of where their team actually is at the end of spring practice by going up against players and coaches that haven’t been involved in your schemes for the last month.
And, of course, fans will love it. Right now, the fans get absolutely no read on the team by the spring game and since most practices are closed now that means they have no real feel for how good or bad their team is coming out of the spring. And this would be real football. Or almost real football. At least it would be a real opponent. The important thing is finding the right opponents.
This really doesn’t accomplish a thing if the elite teams schedule scrimmages against small schools that lack their talent. For this idea to really make a difference each team needs to play a team from not only their same talent level but from their region as well. Logistically, it just doesn’t make sense to fly the USC football team to Knoxville. For instance, Alabama could play FSU. Florida could play Miami unless they are scheduled to play the Canes that season at which point they could play Central Florida. Georgia could play Clemson or Louisville. Ohio State could play Missouri. I think you get the idea here.
The stands would be full. The college town hosting the game would be full of weekend travelers. But even more importantly, the television ratings would be through the roof. I think it would be a great idea for each hosting school to donate any profits after paying the expenses of holding the game for both schools to a charity of their choice or perhaps to the academic side of their respective universities. Make this something that shines a little good light on the sport. God knows it gets its share of bad publicity.
This really seems like a no-brainer. The only possible downside would be the risk of injury and I’m not sure that there is any more real risk to playing this type of scrimmage versus the spring games we have now. I would envision something where the first string plays the opponents first string for a quarter. Second string against second string in the second quarter and so on. I would even consider shortening the fourth quarter and having two overtime sessions to allow teams to prepare for that possibility in the fall. So, what do you think?