One bit of chatter that’s been rattling around college football in recent years is the prospect of allowing coaches to junk their customary, controlled spring “games” and allow for a scrimmage vs. another nearby team.
ESPN’s Big Ten Blog explored this option Friday, citing an Atlanta Journal Constitution story quoting Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, who naturally prefers a closed scrimmage where fans and media couldn’t possibly draw any conclusions about the relative strength of a team.
“Clemson plays Georgia in basketball every year. But it’s a closed scrimmage. You know, nobody can be in there except the two teams. If they didn’t want to do any type of public thing, I wouldn’t have a problem with having a closed football scrimmage where nobody could be there but the staffs of both teams.”
I’m guessing a lot of programs — especially Nebraska — would balk at the idea of a closed scrimmage. NU uses its spring game as a recruiting tool. So does Alabama, frankly. And other programs that like to televise their spring game on ESPN or BTN.
Would the Huskers ever explore a home-and-home scrimmage system with, say, Oklahoma? Or Iowa State? (Nebraska coach Bo Pelini has close ties at OU and a healthy respect for ISU). Would a team like South Dakota accept guarantee money to come down every spring and offer up a decent look? That might be more likely.
Under Pelini, NU’s spring games have been, relatively speaking, low-intensity affairs. Pelini conducts a draft to split up the teams evenly, and has limited the breadth of what his offenses and defenses run during the game. We might see 34 isolation plays in a row this spring, given the BTN broadcast. You may not see “1s vs. 1s” either.
It’s led to some misplaced hype by fans and the media, most notably the play of quarterbacks LaTravis Washington (in 2009) and Brion Carnes (in 2011) as they feasted on third-and-fourth-team defenses. Collins Okafor ripped off a big run one year. Marcus Mendoza was Zac Lee’s favorite target in one spring game. Antonio Bell made circus catches that same year. It just didn’t mean much.
A controlled scrimmage would be a “truer” look, of course, and coaches may appreciate that. But if you close out the fans, you close out the recruiting edge. There’s no bonus for playing inside an empty Memorial Stadium.
Some food for thought this Friday morning.