Are spring games doomed?

John Infante believes we’re on the verge of seeing the spring game disappear as an annual event.

All over the country coaches are doing away with spring games. Texas A&M was forced to by renovations to Kyle Field. But Oklahoma State and Pitt did so voluntarily. This is becoming a trend and it will likely be a terminal one for this annual spring tradition.

Why?  It’s a victim of mandated time constraints.

The spring game is counted as one of the 15 practice sessions that make up spring practice. In addition to the overall limit of 15, no more than 12 sessions can include contact. Of the 12 contact sessions, only eight can including tackling. And of the eight tackling sessions, only three can devote more than 50% of the time to 11-on–11 scrimmaging. Spring games obviously count as one of those three scrimmages.

So it makes sense that coaches are moving away from a fan- or competition-focused spring game to an open practice or doing away with it entirely. Coaches have precious little time to work with their team in the spring. Unlike other sports this is the only skill instruction coaches can provide between the end of the football season and the start of fall camp. Not only does a spring game take away from this time generally, it takes away from the most limited subset of this time, 11-on–11 scrimmaging that includes tackling.

And time may become even more constrained.

As limited as that time is, it could be getting even more limited as well. If contact during practice needs to be reduced for safety reasons, one of the easiest places to try and reduce it will be in spring practice. 12 sessions with contact might become eight, eight sessions of tackling might become four, and three scrimmages might become two, one, or none.

Infante mentions changing the spring game to a meeting between schools (an idea I’ve always liked) as a way to save it, but if player safety concerns grow, I don’t see how an inter-school scrimmage helps.  It’s sad, but the only thing I can come up with to counter Infante’s argument is that ESPN sure likes the added broadcast product it’s gotten from these glorified scrimmages over the past few years.  Is that enough?

The spring game is a beloved tradition, particularly in our neck of the woods.  But like so many things driving college football these days, ultimately it won’t be about what we fans want.  That doesn’t mean we won’t miss it if it goes.

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16 Comments

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16 responses to “Are spring games doomed?

  1. Go Dawgs!

    If the rules are legislating spring games out of existence, why not change the rules? It’s not like anyone gets a lot of work done at the scrimmages, so why not legislate some limited amount of time for an 11-on-11 exhibition that doesn’t count towards the rest of your practice time? It can just be a half of football or maybe the quarters would be shorter. I think there’s value to playing in front of a crowd, and it’s certainly something that’s valuable to the fans. I’ve seen Georgia draw 20,000-30,000 people for G-Day. Alabama? They’ve filled the place up. It would be sad to see G-Day go away. There’s got to be a rule compromise that can preserve the tradition.

    • That was my first thought, as well. But if there is a real squeeze on spring practice due to safety concerns, I can see the coaches moving to do away with spring games, at least on a regular basis.

      • Macallanlover

        Once you go down the road of contact must be limited because of concerns about player’s safety, there is no stopping, you might as well ban the game entirely. Acceptance, and defense, of the risks involved in playing football is critical to it’s survival. Supervised practices with trainers nearby is about all you can do whether it be practice or actual games. Practice is a way to help train players how to best avoid injury, limiting that is the wrong direction to go. Spring games, and practices, are filmed and provide a teaching opportunity. As others have noted below, there are great reasons to continue the Spring Games, for a sport that worries about how to build better attendance at future games, taking away a “free sample” seems pretty dumb. Just keep stepping of the fans’ enthusiasm guys, that is the ticket. And, schedule it on Masters Saturday, another slap in the fans’ face.

  2. Gravidy

    I know I’m in a shrinking minority on this, but I think it’s a shame that Infante’s argument even exists, much less needs to be countered. If the NCAA is so concerned about player safety that they are going to further limit contact in practice, why don’t they shorten games? Why don’t they cut the number of games in half? Hell, why not just abandon the sport? That would absolutely reduce the number of football related injuries.

  3. PatinDC

    Sigh. I am sad to see this for sure. I love the G Day games. They are very family friendly and really help a new generation learn to love the team. I have learned that no matter how much you love something, if you don’t teach the youngsters to enjoy it, it will fade away.

    I fell the team gets a lot out of it too. Playing before a crowd can’t be discounted. They all seem to have fun. That can’t be bad.

    • That’s an excellent point. Spring game was a time when we would buy our new hats for the season and stroll around campus. It was always a big deal for the boys to visit the buildings where they hopefully would be taking classes one day. (and that did come to pass). It wasn’t so crowded that the kids couldn’t venture about the stadium without their Dad getting too paranoid. It gave them the chance to become reaquainted with the kids from our tailgate crew and take in the atmosphere of the hedges. The boys are grown now and pretty much have their own tailgate crew. But I’d hate to know that other Dads and Moms wouldn’t get to enjoy what we’ve known. I’d hate to see it go. Well, the game certainly is changing isn’t it? (sighs) I’ve certainly come to despise the NCAA and am none to fond of ESPN either. Somehow I don’t think Walt would be to pleased either.

      • Just Chuck (The Other One)

        Amen to the comments of PatinDC and AHD. The spring game is very much about the atmosphere and the excuse to drive back to Athens in the spring. It’s also an excuse for some old players to come back as well which adds to the experience. Do you remember a few years back when Hines Ward and David Pollock appeared as guest coaches? It was a highlight watching the two of them interacting with the kids down by the hedges.

  4. Bob

    If they want to find a solution, they can. Simply say you can have 15 practices (or 12 or whatever). You also will get one additional “game” that you can use for a G Day type thing. If you choose to do this, you must have game refs and it be open to the public. If you choose to not do it, you will not get to increase the number of practices. In other words, encourage schools to have the game, but don’t count it among the authorized practices. Doesn’t seem difficult to me if they simply try.

  5. AusDawg85

    If you don’t practice tackling, you’re gonna get hurt. On both sides of the ball.

  6. DawgPhan

    yeah…spring game is great to take the kids to. early lunch at cali n titos and then off to the game for some walking around with the kids. would hate to lose it.

  7. RV Hill Alum

    If it generates $, it stays, if not it’s gone.
    My sister told me about check gate. I told her it was a shame they thought they could get away with it. She corrected me, “it was a shame to think McFrugal wouldn’t miss a dollar”. I stand corrected.

    • I just don’t get the shots at Greg McGarity. The McFrugal thing. Is this more of the same pot shots similar to “Bobo haz a crayon” meme. Maybe? Look at the administration of the Athletic Association and you will see the president, provost, vice presidents, and elected members of the faculty. Dr. Adams last say so at the King and Prince was that AA had to rein in spending. “we are heading toward a cliff..” The provost… agreed. McGarity agreed with his future Boss. Game, set, match GTP’ers. We’ve covered this so many time here at GTP. I guess unless Bluto reins me in I’ll keep pointing this out. Yep.
      Oh and “Bobo has an I-Pad” never wanna miss a chance to post that. ;-)
      Told you Hijo.
      just sayin’