If some coaches have their way, spring scrimmages could become 'real' games

Mike Huguenin
Yahoo! Sports

This is the last big weekend of the spring football "season," with 32 spring games/final scrimmages scheduled. Among the schools finishing up this weekend are Ohio State, Penn State, Arkansas, Oklahoma State and Notre Dame.

If some coaches have their way, teams' annual spring games actually could become spring games against another team.

Clemson's Dabo Swinney, for one, sees value in his Tigers bringing in, say, Georgia for an end-of-spring scrimmage/game. And the American Football Coaches Association board of directors likely will at least talk about the idea when it meets in Arizona next month.

"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/Harvard coach 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. If you wanted to hold a scrimmage, you could do it, but it would just be more complex."

Though NCAA rules currently strictly prohibit such a move, Murphy points out that "other college sports do it." Basketball, soccer and field hockey are the Division I sports allowed to have scrimmages or exhibitions before the first game.

At first blush, the idea sounds intriguing. The most interesting aspect for athletic directors, of course, would be that it could be a money-making proposition. Imagine, if you will, Alabama fans shelling out, say, $15 to see the Tide take on Florida State in a spring game. That's a cool $1.5 million or so the Tide could add to its coffers.

[ Related: Now we know who broke Alabama's BCS national championship trophy ]

But once you remove the financial factor – which, of course, would be the true driving force for a rules change in a sport that now seems willing to chase every penny, even the ones rolling under the couch – the idea sort of peters out.

There are a lot of issues. Among them:

• Presumably, both teams involved would have to be on the same basic spring schedule, i.e., ending on the same day.

• Would any big-name school want to travel for a spring game? And if so, wouldn't the travel costs wipe out most of the money made from ticket sales? Seriously, it's hard to imagine any big-time coach looking forward to gathering his players for a short plane trip/bus ride to play a spring game.

• And given that the big-name schools likely wouldn't want to travel, would anyone really care about an Alabama-UAB spring game? Or Ohio State-Bowling Green? Or Texas-Texas State?

• And for some reason, an injury sustained in a game like that seems as if it would be far more unpalatable. For instance, Florida lost Ronald Powell, its best pass rusher, to an ACL injury in its spring game. That's bad enough. Now imagine if Powell were to have blown out his knee in a spring game against, say, Florida Atlantic. When it's Orange vs. Blue or Scarlet vs. Gray or Maroon vs. White, one coach has control of every player in the game. Bringing another school (and another coach) into the mix means one coach could take the game far more seriously than his counterpart; one coach might be interested in some actual teaching points while the other actually would want to score 50.

• This also is another case of the rich getting richer. It's one thing for Alabama or Ohio State to sell out a spring game. But what about, say, New Mexico State or Louisiana-Monroe? It could become a case of a school becoming a guarantee-game foe for spring practice as well. Would that type of school even be interested in changing the rules?

What might have more traction is simply practicing against another team. Indeed, Michigan State AD Mark Hollis told The AP that perhaps the Big Ten and MAC could form some kind of spring alliance if scrimmages or practices against other teams were permitted. But is practicing against Eastern Michigan – whose campus is about 15 minutes from Ann Arbor – going to be that big a boost for Michigan?

It should be an interesting discussion at the AFCA meeting.

Grid bits

• CBS announced that the Navy-Notre Dame game will be televised at 9 a.m. ET on Sept. 1. And, no, this isn't TV running amok. The game is being played in Dublin, Ireland.

• In other TV news, Baylor and SMU have moved their game from Sept. 1 to Sept. 2. Kickoff will be at 6:30 p.m. ET and televised by Fox Sports Net. That makes the ninth non-Saturday game scheduled to be televised on that first weekend – four on Thursday, two on Friday, two on Sunday and one on Monday. Obviously, there could be more.

• Ohio State is spending $7 million on improvements to the scoreboard and audio system at Ohio Stadium this summer; everything is expected to be in place by the end of August.

• With Texas A&M's move to the SEC comes word that the school has hired a design firm to look into the renovation of Kyle Field. Official capacity is 82,600.

• FCS member Towson is coming off a nine-win season, its best record since 1984. Tempting fate in a way, the school has decided it's time for a new helmet logo – and it's letting fans vote on the design.

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