The 2018 spring football takeaway: Spring football should be taken away.
Do not return until changes include intercollegiate spring games.
Or at least some facsimile. A controlled scrimmage open to the public. Doubleheaders featuring four teams and a pair of two-quarter games, which Tennessee athletic director Philip Fulmer recently suggested.
A jamboree format over two days.
Anything but status quo.
“I’d be the first to vote for that,” said Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, who was saying the same thing as early as 2013. “We’re the only level of football that doesn’t have anything like that. Even if you didn’t have the fans and you just had a practice, like basketball does.”
I am not saying I invented this concept.
Just that I began publicly advocating in 1999, when Swinney was a wide receivers coach at Alabama.
Borrowing from a previous millennium version of myself (a faster runner but no better looking): “Isn’t Clemson vs. Alabama a lot more fun than Orange vs. White? It’s hard to find a downside to South Carolina vs. North Carolina instead of South Carolina vs. South Carolina in April.”
Two decades later, with veteran gusto …
Intercollegiate spring football makes sense because football player development, like shrimp and grits preparation, is best achieved through competitive repetition.
“You want to have a chance to gauge where your team is where you’re not as familiar,” Swinney said.
It makes dollars because people will watch on various devices.
Not all coaches like the idea of scrimmaging another team; Steve Spurrier was among them. But there should be little added injury risk; an intercollegiate scrimmage or game would simply replace practice hours.
Teams that do not have an intercollegiate spring game at home during a given year could still have an intrasquad stadium scrimmage open to fans.
The American Football Coaches Association discussed intercollege spring scrimmage proposals in 2013, but they never got enough traction for NCAA clearance.
There presently is as much momentum for a Nick Saban statue in Auburn as for major spring football alteration. Which is why you need to complain to your favorite athletic director and send strongly worded tweets to the NCAA.
Wishing while waiting, how about this schedule for 2019, a fun little SEC-ACC challenge:
Florida State-South Carolina
Texas A&M-Virginia Tech
Home and home over two springs is ideal here, but a free-for-all format is fine, too.
Eventually, every Power 5 conference program will find a dance partner.
More TV cash
Hopefully, this can filter down to most non-Power 5 FCS conferences, FCS independents and FBS conferences.
How to pay for the travel costs?
Added TV revenue should suffice, but if extra expenses arise, just charge a few bucks at the gate — no more than $5 (most intrasquad spring games are free).
Swinney is right: NFL and high school teams get a lot out of exhibition games or scrimmages against other teams.
College basketball teams get closed-door practices against unfamiliar foes in the early fall plus an exhibition game or two before the real season starts.
The NCAA last month approved two exhibition games for college baseball teams beginning with the 2019 season.
A nice break from Garnet vs. Black and Orange vs. White, over and over.
It will happen in college football one of these millenniums.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff.