By Hunter Ford
You can read this and more of Hunter’s writings at his new blog Alagonzo.
Last year Alabama football fanatics lost their collective minds when more than 92,000 of them showed up for a spring football game in Tuscaloosa.
The Crimson Nation was euphoric over the arrival of a real football coach (Nick Saban)- the first it had seen since Gene Stallings retired in 1996.
The giddiness of the fans was repaid with a 7-6 season, a sixth consecutive loss to Auburn and a trip to sunny Shreveport for the Independence Bowl.
The lasting impact of the huge spring game crowd was that some marketing firm in New York is trying to capitalize on the passion for college football.
This year, Alabama, along with 19 other football-crazy universities, will participate in something called The Gridiron Bash.
The idea is to sell tickets to a Friday night concert and pep rally before the spring game on Saturday.
Each school that participates will be in a contest to see if it can produce the biggest fan response. The winner of the contest will get $1 million for its general scholarship fund.
It’s not a bad idea. But it has some serious flaws, and it doesn’t go far enough.
For starters, it’s mostly for the commercial benefit of the promoter, MSL Sports. Secondly, there is unfairness in the system of gauging crowds at the concerts.
Country music superstar Alan Jackson will perform the concert in Tuscaloosa.Â Jackson is a good fit for the Alabama fan base, but there are other schools that will be getting musical acts I would much rather see, and some schools getting musical acts I have never heard of or wouldn’t go to see if you paid me.
For instance, Iowa fans will be subjected to Kelly Clarkson. In South Carolina, Gamecock fans will get to rock with The Black Crows, and in College Station, TX, Aggie fans will get to roll with ZZ Top.
It’s not an even playing field if one school gets an American Idol reject and another school gets a Led Zeppelin reunion.
Trying to put some spice in the spring football experience is great. But concerts and flim-flam promotions cannot make up for the fact that spring football scrimmages are boring.
What college football fans really need this time of year is to see some real games.
Forget the yodeling country crooners, the whining alternative rockers and the posing American Idol wannabes. Give me some honest-to-God REAL football.
Instead of a vanilla intra-squad scrimmage, I would like to see each major university play a spring game against an intersectional opponent.
Put the games on TV over a two-week period and call it Spring Football Fest or something.
Schools could enter into two-year home and home contracts or they could agree on some reasonable neutral site game.
Alabama has done this for regular season games with Florida State last year in Jacksonville and with a game scheduled with Clemson this year at the Georgia Dome.
Can you imagine how popular these types of spring games would be with shaking, cold-sweating, feverishly withdrawing college football fans?
Sometime between late March and mid April, rabid college football fans could be treated to an Easter basket full of actual college games.
You could turn on your TV set Friday night and watch Florida State vs. USC.
On Saturday morning you could watch LSU vs. Penn State followed by an afternoon tussle between Auburn and Texas and culminating with a nightcap of Alabama vs. Notre Dame. The possibilities are gloriously endless.
If fans really want to see how the third string quarterback handles throwing against zone coverage, there could be rules set up to ensure each team plays at least three different players at each position. Other than that, all regular rules of the game would apply.
The games would not count for anything other than pride and bragging rights. Would that not be a “real” breath of fresh spring air? Oh, I guess promoters could still have fan contests and sell tickets to concerts.