Spring football has come and gone for the majority of FBS schools. While hope is running high among teams, several coaches are contemplating how to improve spring training. A major idea that is gaining traction is to allow teams to practice against each other. NCAA rules currently ban different football teams from scrimmaging or practicing together.
On the surface, the idea has merit. Give the players a true opponent and allow them to compete. The coaches will get to see how players respond in different environments. Fans will get to see more competitive football while further enhancing the off-season debate.
Digging deeper however, the problems are mind-boggling. First, who would play? “Creampuff” games would not generate much fan interest. Traditional power matchups would solve the fan interest problem, but finances would be a major stumbling block. Why would Alabama want to leave Bryant-Denny Stadium, which holds over 100,000 people, to play at a smaller venue without a major corporate sponsor to absorb some of the financial costs? A sponsor does not even guarantee a profit. TideSports.com’s Tommy Deas recently published a report showing that Alabama lost money on the BCS National Championship game in New Orleans, after factoring in costs of travel, lodging, purchasing tickets not covered by Alabama’s allotment (band members, coaches’ family members, etc.) and coach bonuses. Since spring game admission is free or near it, there is not much chance of covering costs.
The main issue isn’t money or fan interest, but the athletes themselves. These young men are student-athletes. Forcing them to travel would put them behind the academic eight ball. Alabama finished spring practice on April 14. Dead Week (the week before exams) begins on April 23. The Bama situation is similar to many other institutions. The spring term is coming to a close and college students across the country are gearing up for exams.
While the scholarship the players signed does imply that players need to balance school and their chosen sport, when is balance an untenable concept? Remember the “student” in student-athlete and don’t change spring practice.