Getting together for a little spring ball

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.


Filed under College Football, The NCAA

15 responses to “Getting together for a little spring ball

  1. HVL Dawg

    The fact that a contemporary writer is citing the results from a scrimmage nearly 50 years ago is proof enough that this type of “scrimmage ” would be truly in fact be an extension of the regular season.

    The “scrimmage” would count, and it would count plenty.


    • Otto

      Yes it would, and then it would be televised, then Clemson and UGA would be splitting the revenue. McGarity would be filling the rainy day fund. I think you just found your champion to propose the rule change. McG can work with Adams and the NCAA.


  2. Brandon

    By simple math… you would actually cut the injury threat in half… as you wouldn’t have both your offense and defense on the field for the entirety of the scrimmage


    • Derek

      And thus your players lose half the reps they otherwise would have gotten. I don’t think coaches would take these games seriously and the guys who need game-like reps won’t get them if they do.

      Do we want to see our starters play 4 quarters in a game that doesn’t matter? Do we need to beat Clemson in April?

      We all want more football, but 12 to 15 games that count are plenty.


      • And thus your players lose half the reps they otherwise would have gotten. I don’t think coaches would take these games seriously and the guys who need game-like reps won’t get them if they do.

        Eh, what does Mike Riley know?

        While the NFL is considering cutting its exhibition schedule from four to two games (and lengthening its regular season), Riley and some other college coaches are in favor of a preseason game or even a scrimmage.

        “It would be chance to see some new stuff and have your players have to adjust,” Riley said.

        “What happens in the first game of the regular season, you take everything you’ve been working on and everything you do … and then you’ve got to make some adjustments.

        “I think a preseason scrimmage would give you the chance to get through some of the those hurdles and get your team to understand that that’s the way it is every week. You’ve got to take what you do and adapt it.”


        • Derek

          Apples and oranges to me. First, nobody cares who wins a pre-season exhibition game. Second, by the time you get to August you’re trying to get your units situated and figure out your travel squad. An exhibition game could help iron out some stuff.

          To me the idea of a Spring Game vs. another opponent is being sold as an opportunity for a competitive game in the off season. It’s way too early to serve the function of a preseason game, you’re much earlier in the process of deciding who you’re looking for contributions from and about 20 guys or so that will be around in the fall ain’t there yet.

          I could see a lot of value in scheduling a SEC West team not on that year’s schedule for a Saturday night scrimmage a week out from the start of the season. Now that, I’d be for. I think a preseason game at College Station or vs. Arkansas in Athens would be serve a purpose and be a good way to start a college football season.


  3. FisheriesDawg

    Here’s the problem: teams with any hope of playing for a national title are going to take the scrimmage seriously because this is a sport where polls matter, thereby perception matters. If Georgia and Clemson play a preseason game then go on to be in competition for the 4th playoff spot at 11-1 and out of the conference title game, who doesn’t think the results of the scrimmage will matter? It essentially becomes another nonconference game.


  4. Borodawg

    A scrimmage with another school would be great until someone laid the wood to the other player. (see Miss State)


    • Otto

      It is nice in an idea. In a utopia sure I’d love to see UGA Clemson on a nice spring afternoon. Big hits, media over hype, implications on rankings the following season, recruiting, etc. I’ll take spring games as they are.


  5. Nashville West

    When I played D3 ball in 1975 we scrimmaged against one of the large JC programs. Of course we only played 9 regular season games so we wouldn’t have triggered the NCAA limits. I think that the Ivies only played 9 games in 1970 but BC would’ve played a full schedule, although they were an independent like most of the northeast teams at the time. Don’t know if that history helps, Senator.


  6. Macallanlover

    Sorry, I just don’t see a downside to this. With UGA having Clemson and FSU within driving distance we could have some very interesting exhibition games. To keep it from carrying too much weight regarding perception into the season, limit the 1st half to 1 and 2s, and the second half to the remainder of the squad, or have a play count of some sort. Hard to draw too much in April with that limited amount of 1st team play. Everyone needs to get over the injury issue, they happen in every practice and scrimmage. It is a part of the game every day, have to live with it. Heck, we lost players to injury celebrating a TD.


    • Cojones

      Yes, and FSU gets to show off in the state they recruit most from besides their own. They don’t have a reciprocating number of players to choose from in N.Fl. . Same goes for the entire state of S.Ca