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.

7 thoughts on “How about a ‘real’ spring game?”

  1. I had wondered if the pending “super conferences” would cause some sort of momentum shift to where maybe we would have a separate season for the other conferences. The stars from those conferences, for example, might transfer after a stellar season. For sure though, 12 weeks in the fall isn’t enough, but I’m afraid even for the least competitive programs there’s too much tradition to take football out of the fall. Still, more football is good, period. I had a blast at Clemson’s game, but it’s hard not to pretend the one-hand-touch tackles against the QB’s doesn’t affect the game. The rest of those guys were taking some brutal hits.

  2. I went to an Alabama A-Day game in 80s and maybe 20,000 were in attendance…I have been to a couple since Saban arrived and today it more like a true game day experience. But it would be nice to have at least one truly competitive game against another school during spring season.

    I remember when Ray Perkins had an A-Day game that featured Alabama alums playing the current varsity. Kenny Stabler and Scott Hunter played QB for the alums. That was interesting… I know there would be great fan excitement (at least in the south) for some real games during the spring.

  3. I like Dabo. I know Dabo. Dabo was my roommate’s project partner in the MBA program when I was in school. Got to know him well, and even exchanged a few emails this past season. A great guy, and an up and coming coach.

    But Dabo is playing to the crowd. The NCAA, in its current form, would never let a spring game against an opponent happen. There are too many restrictions that bind programs in terms of hours the players can be in play, and since the ultimate purpose is to develop players for the real season, coaches aren’t going to shed valuable practice time for a fan-led exhibition game.

    It’s a good thought though.

  4. True that ITK…but there are some coaches who say a spring intra squad game often suffers from lack of quality players to fill two rosters.

    Here is a far out idea, I think Conduit alluded to. What if lower-tier schools switched to a spring only schedule. Would you go to Samford (or UAB) games in the spring if there were no competing Alabama or Auburn games to distract you?

    1. I think it gets even more interesting in that we’d see talent at those schools we might not have known was as good as it could be.

      Football is a fall sport. I hate that, but it’s the truth; it will never expand beyond that.

      I wonder about a secondary squad entirely for the spring? Alabama has its elite players play in the fall, for example, and the “spring season” gives the new players or less-experienced players extra game time to move into the fall series. It’s all hypothetical but more football just sounds so nice in my mind no matter where it comes from…

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