At the start of Chip Towers’ piece about how he’s looking forward to watching the quarterback battle on G-Day — hey, at least he didn’t mention QBRs — he also says this:
Generally, I’m not a big fan of spring games. I’ve always thought it’d be great if they did like the NFL in preseason camps and allowed regional teams that don’t play each other in the regular season to get together for a “friendly” in April. How awesome would a little spring tilt between Clemson and Georgia be? Coaches could have an agreement about how much they play the first, second and third units; schools could sell tickets and concessions and donate proceeds to worthy charities; and fans would flock to watch.
But that’s La-La Land. Not going to happen.
Yes, it would be awesome. The weird thing is that it turns out not to be as uncommon as you might think.
I’ve been reading Bill Connelly’s excellent book, The 50 Best* College Football Teams of All-Time. In the chapter about the 1970 Dartmouth team (you’ll have to trust Bill on this), he mentions that Dartmouth played a preseason warmup game/scrimmage against Boston College, almost as an aside. I was intrigued about that, to say the least, so I started doing a little digging and found this:
This team’s potential was revealed in a preseason scrimmage with Boston College. Rated New England’s top team, the Eagles were stunned, 42-6, unveiling a combination of explosive offensive and grudging defense that Blackman conceded, “… was beyond my wildest expectations.”
So, apparently, preseason scrimmages between D-1 programs were once a real thing. Which led to my next question: what happened?
That’s been a lot harder to determine, but I did find this AP article from several years ago that added some more background.
NCAA rules allow Division I college football teams to play 12 contests, including scrimmages against other teams. Since no school is about to give up a regular-season game to play a game that doesn’t count, the first step would be a rule change.
NCAA spokesman Erik Christianson said in an e-mail that “there have not been any proposals from member schools or conferences to change the rule on scrimmages or exhibition football games.”
But maybe one might be coming.
Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez is a proponent of playing a preseason tuneup and apparently he’s turned his new boss, athletic director David Brandon, on to the idea.
“Our coaches and I believe this is something worth considering,” Brandon said. “We need to look at all of the issues carefully, and get input from other coaches and programs. However, it could be beneficial to provide a scrimmage opportunity versus another team during the preseason practice period to better prepare the team for competition. This would be for the same reasons that basketball, hockey, and other sports do the same thing.”
At the lower levels of college football, it’s not uncommon for teams to work in preseason intersquad scrimmages.
“We’re probably one of the only levels of football that doesn’t have preseason games,” said Rodriguez, whose first college head coaching job was at Division II Glenville State.
Indiana coach Bill Lynch also coached in Division II.
“We’d find another school that was close, so it was relatively inexpensive and I thought it was really good. We used to really kind of make a day of it and it was really a practice against each other broken down into individual drills as well as 11 on 11.
“Whether that would work at this level, I’m not sure. I’m sure there would be finances that would get involved and probably try to make it a money maker. But in terms of getting your team ready, it would be great.”
At some point, then, even D-1 squads arranged preseason football scrimmages, but the practice came to a halt because of an NCAA regulation that isn’t even applied to lower levels of the sport. What the impetus for that regulation was, I haven’t been able to determine, but before you go with increased injury threat, remember that yesterday I linked to a brutal targeting hit that ended Mississippi State’s spring game prematurely. Shit happens, even on an intrasquad basis.
Does anyone out there have any information that would shed some more light on the relevant history here? Inquiring minds (well, at least my mind) want to know.