Exhibitions could be a spring away


With the 2012 version of spring football almost in the books, it’s time to hand out the ultimate prize.

Biggest winner: Spring football its own self.

Finally, 16 seasons after I brought up the concept of exhibition games or jamboree-style clashes involving your favorite college football teams playing against each other, the powers that be are catching on.

After all these years, cash-strapped universities and struggling athletic departments are learning not to ignore black ink when it splashes in front of them.

No need to thank me. Just donate my royalty to charity or a needy “non-revenue” college sport.

Among the proponents is Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, who stood on his busy orange soapbox and advocated for some type of spring football exhibition game or scrimmage plan.

“The NFL does it, why shouldn’t we?” the Tigers head coach said.

And the American Football Coaches Association revealed this week that it will discuss scrimmage proposals during May board meetings in Arizona, and might ask the NCAA for clearance.

“Based upon the buzz about this within the profession the last couple of months, I’m sure we’ll be talking about this when we meet,” AFCA president Tim Murphy told The Associated Press.

“I think the NFL model would be a good way to do it, going through drills with another team,” said Murphy, the head coach at Harvard. “If you wanted to hold a scrimmage, you could do it, but it would just be more complex.”

But this is a big step toward what we really want: A full slate of spring exhibition games or public scrimmages to replace the annually lame School Color vs. School Color nonsense dubbed as a spring game.

And/or August jamborees featuring multiple teams at the same neutral site.

A preview for Spring Football 2013, or some spring soon: The first annual SEC/ACC Challenge.

All games televised and spread out over a long Spring Football Weekend celebration.

Thursday night: Florida at Virginia Tech

Friday night: Syracuse at Texas A&M

Saturday: Mississippi State at Duke, Ole Miss at Pittsburgh, Wake Forest at Kentucky, Auburn at North Carolina, Maryland at Vanderbilt, Arkansas at Virginia, N.C. State at Tennessee, Boston College at Missouri

Saturday night: Georgia Tech at South Carolina, Clemson at Georgia

Sunday night: LSU at Miami Monday night: Florida State at Alabama

Television and concessions revenue would allow schools that currently do not charge at spring game turnstiles to sell tickets for as low as $5 to $10, pay travel costs and still make money.

Notably, some head coaches — including South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier and Alabama’s Nick Saban — have said they don’t like this idea. But sense and dollars will prevail, convincing coaches that player development is still possible (and that schools need all the revenue they can generate to pay people millions of dollars to coach, or not coach).

A more appealing April is upon us, a year when spring football games are a little more meaningful, much more entertaining and a lot more profitable.

Reach Gene Sapakoff at 937-5593 or on Twitter @sapakoff

Gene Sapakoff