How about a ‘real’ spring game?

By Hunter Ford

Some people see things as they are and ask… “why?”   Others dream of things that never were and ask… “why not?”

In 2012, Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney advocated the idea of college football teams playing exhibition games against other schools instead of having intra-squad scrimmages.

Why not?  I have been wishing for this for years.  And I have written about it before.  I can’t claim it was an original idea.  If my memory serves me, former UAB football coach Watson Brown brought up the idea to me in a conversation I had with him long ago when I was writing for the UAB student newspaper.

We used to have pro football in the spring.  Back in the day, I was a fan of the old Birmingham Stallions of the USFL.  The USFL was a quality, alternative pro league that played an 18-game season during the spring.  Go to YouTube and find the documentary “Who killed the USFL” if you want a comprehensive look at the USFL.  There are a lot of reasons the USFL failed, and a lot of reasons no other spring league has made an impact.  In it’s time, however, the USFL was popular in college football markets like Birmingham and Jacksonville.

Today, college football, with real games, between different schools, would make a lot of sense in my opinion.

Obviously, you can’t have a full season of games.  But if every major college program could play at least one exhibition against another quality program, I know it would be a hit with fans.

Perhaps there could be a spring mini-season with two, three or four games.  That way schools could have home games for the fans who like the experience of coming back to campus in the spring.  This would also allow some away games and maybe even neutral site games.

Rules about spring practice might have to be modified, but so what?  In that regard, spring games could be a testing ground for proposed rules that could be used in upcoming regular seasons.  I can’t think of any major rules proposals (sarcasm) but I’m sure there will be some someday.

What if Alabama played two spring games?  Let’s imagine that the first game would be in Tuscaloosa against a weak opponent.  Let’s just pretend that Alabama invites Joey Jones to come back home to UA and bring his South Alabama Jaguars.  Fans get to see a home game and are almost certainly guaranteed a win.

Then, the next week, Alabama would travel to a neutral site to play a game against stiffer competition.  Alabama and Oregon in Dallas?  How about Alabama vs Florida State in Orlando?  Alabama vs. Oklahoma?   Ohio State?  Notre Dame?  Texas?  Anywhere?  And on TV to boot.  What is not to like?

I can think of some potential pitfalls, but I believe the pros far, far, far, outweigh the cons.  I’m thankful Dabo Swinney brought it up for debate.  Unless I missed something, I don’t think the idea has gotten the attention it deserves.  However, here is a link to Atlanta Journal-Constitution article with some more detailed discussion.