Tweaks we'd like to see.
With the rise in popularity of spring ball comes the natural human urge -- the patriotic American urge -- to capitalize on it to the greatest possible extent. Georgia's spring game rated ESPN coverage this past Saturday. Nebraska's spring game is on the verge of selling out. Alabama's A-Day game seeks transcendence. Long the province of freeloading picnickers, schools are beginning to collect modest entry fees and are raking in money hand over fist from desperate fans wandering the wasteland of the offseason.
The Omaha World-Herald takes things a step further, offering up two suggestions that would effectively establish a college football preseason:
1. Create spring bowl games in San Diego, Orlando, Fla., Naples, Fla., Myrtle Beach, S.C., San Antonio, New Orleans, Vail, Colo., Pebble Beach, Calif., and Scottsdale, Ariz.
2. Allow schools to play other schools in "spring game" scrimmages.
In other words, instead of the Red squaring off against the White on Saturday in Memorial Stadium, the Red and White would play Iowa in a four-quarter game. Yes, we would keep score. No, it would not go on a coach's record nor would he be able to collect a $1 million bonus for winning the "spring game." Texas could feel free to use an asterisk.
The bowl idea can be readily dismissed out of hand. (What, are the offensive and defensive lines supposed to slug through the water hazards at Pebble Beach? Is there a hundred-yard span of level ground anywhere in Vail? Would the selection process give rise to another playoff battle for the spring games alone?) The scrimmage notion carries a little more merit, but the logistics are largely unworkable. Conference opponents wouldn't want to play one another for fear of injuries or revealing too much of the playbook too soon. Taking the games to other conferences would mean higher travel expenses for many teams still in the red after bowl season. And some of the highest-profile teams (looking at you, USC) are saddled with fanbases notorious for their unwillingness to venture too far from home even during the regular season.
Our solution: The Sunshine Classic, wherein the wealth of fine weather and tourist attractions will draw thousands of families eager to escape the freezing April rains of Ann Arbor, Boise, or Lexington. The plan is diabolically simple: Six "Big Six" conference teams selected by lottery venture south to scrimmage against such tempting fare as Florida State, South Florida, Florida Atlantic, Florida A&M, Florida International, and Miami. There will be a morning, afternoon, and night game for one Saturday and Sunday in April, ensuring that a single network (now's your chance, Versus!) could conceivably provide adequate coverage.
Even in our utopian scenario, no one wants to play the Gators unless they absolutely have to: UF's spring game will still outdraw all of the above in terms of attendance and media coverage. But for everyone else, it's a readymade event.