While we, as fans of the SEC, love any vestige of football and the hint of cleats on grass, we’ve encountered a problem with the facade of spring football games.
They aren’t particularly exciting.
They don’t give any real solid information.
People have started to realize both of these things.
Spring game attendance around the conference has declined due to a number of factors. Weather’s been a big factor around the SEC, with cold weather limiting fans in both the Auburn and Arkansas spring games, and completely annihilating the crowd at the Grove Bowl in Oxford.
Now, Ole Miss has problems of their own aside from the weather, but the point remains the same. You’d never see a crowd of that magnitude for Ole Miss football in the fall for a game that counts, no matter the opponent. We’ve seen other teams like Michigan completely cancel the spring game because of weather. It’s not important enough to play in the rain, and nobody would attend anyway to sit in a storm for a practice session.
For Auburn, we saw a 7-on-7 period where Jarrett Stidham threw a few balls to receivers in a shell drill. He wasn’t even wearing pads. Coaches across the board won’t risk a player’s injury status for a spring scrimmage that doesn’t matter in the long run, and honestly, that’s alright. Nobody’s saying that you need to see your starting quarterback get lit up on a sack to have a good time at a spring game. It’s all just so neutered now that things aren’t exciting and it’s hard to see where someone cares.
In the case of A-Day, Auburn played the 1’s vs 2’s, but once the starters left the game, the 2s effectively became the 1s, and so there weren’t even clearly defined teams. The spirit of competition that makes watching sports fun is completely eliminated. And therein lies the main problem. If you’re just going to watch a practice, then there’s no point in attending aside from going to sit in the stadium when you might be otherwise unable to do so during the regular season.
How do we fix that?
It’s simple. Create competition.
Why don’t you have a spring league? Why couldn’t Auburn bring in another conference school to play a spring exhibition? The coaches would get a much better gauge on how their side looks compared to the competition. Plus, a spring scrimmage between Auburn and any other SEC school would actually bring people in to the stands, no matter the weather. Imagine if Auburn and Alabama actually played a spring exhibition. It would be a sellout every time, no question. And you can bet that the players wouldn’t feel the relaxed nature of spring -- no, they’d be much more apt to strive to win on every play, and there’d be a clearly defined winner and loser. No longer would a coach wonder “Well, my offensive tackle got beaten badly, but I can’t tell if he’s good or if my defensive end is bad.”
Let’s take it one step further. We don’t even need to bring in a conference opponent to play in the spring scrimmage, but if you ended up grabbing an instate school, it would be a win-win for everyone. If Auburn played Troy during A-Day, it gives exposure to another school in the state, it creates the competition you want, and it puts fans in the stands.
We would have the same rules that they have during A-Day. Running clock in the second half, no hits on the quarterback, etc. It’s a scrimmage for everyone, a “friendly” as the soccer fans would call it.
I know that there would be so many more people that would be interested in attending and making the spring game as close to a real game as possible. On the actual football front, it would do a great job of mimicking a real live ammo situation against another team as you can get. In the end, it wouldn’t matter, but it would give everyone a much realer sense of where the team stands.
So, what would you do to improve the spring game?