Welcome to Friday Food for Thought, I’m your substitute waiter as Joe needed a weekend off from serving.
Last week, after North Carolina’s spring football practice had wrapped up, Coach Larry Fedora was interviewed about Carolina’s lack of a spring game. The previous reason given for not holding a public scrimmage was the fact that Kenan Stadium was undergoing construction and conditions wouldn’t be great for a crowd to come into the stadium. The interview shed light on the idea that construction wasn’t the only reason, and there’s no guarantee it will continue.
Spring games have become a part of the fabric of college football, going as far as being televised for networks starving for programing as college basketball ends. The question becomes: would Carolina be better off without a spring game?
Spring games are an annual culmination for college football programs, and far too often they are seen as something needed for the fans. In fact, they are one of three allowed scrimmages in the fifteen total practices allowed for each program.
Spring practice is important for a football team. Once they commence, it marks a halfway point between the end of the previous season and the start of the next, and it’s the coaches’ first real chance to see what the next season will bring the on the field. For the players, it’s a chance to compete for a spot, as well as learn what the need to work on during the summer before they get back to campus for the fall.
It’s worth asking, then, how beneficial is a spring game? Most coaches don’t hold an actual game at this point, instead they modify the clocks and the rules to emphasize particular items for their team. The quarterbacks are under non-contact rules, meaning they don’t see the same pressure they’d see in a real game. There’s also the fact that having to play the constraints of a game for the public limits the amount of time players can see the field.
After last year’s 3-9 showing where Carolina lost a third of their roster to injury, any chance to build up that depth is important. If sacrificing the spring game means that more players get actual time on the field, which strengthens the roster overall, it’s not worth the effort to put one on.
Also, why provide your opponents any ability to scout your team? A public display shows off who you have on the field the next season, and gives your opponents one more set of film to use for that first game when the mystery is at its highest.
Maybe the games aren’t the same as what will be faced in the fall, but there’s only so much you can learn about a team when they practice behind closed doors. At some point, the team needs to know what it’s like to play in front of people while being cheered and booed as they deserve. They at least get a taste of actual game pressure. Maybe guys don’t get as many reps, but they may learn more simply facing that sort of pressure.
It also is a thumb to the face of the fans. It isn’t cheap to go to a college football game these days, and the spring game is a free way for fans to go out and enjoy a beautiful spring day and cheer their team on. It’s a way for the program and the players to reach out to the fans and engage them in rooting for the team, not to mention put people in a good mood about spending money to come back and see a real game.
A spring game also keeps a fan base engaged as the summer months creep in and basketball is in the rear view mirror. You are the next major sport up, and fans having an actual game with results to talk about will keep them satisfied until the summer practices begin.
Finally, in previous years, the spring game was used to bring in recruits to see people in the stands and how life is like at the University. A bustling Kenan Stadium on a beautiful day is just the thing that can seal a young man to come to play for you, and getting rid of that can put a hurt in your recruiting.
In need of encouragement to debate-it’s never a bad season for Scotch. I’ve enjoyed many a glass during every season and deep in conversation. My favorite everyday Scotch is the Glennfiddich 15. Its warm taste mixed with hints of honey and berry on the palate make it an excellent glass year-round, and perfect for consuming whilst debating the merits of playing a scrimmage in front of fans.
Can debate without assistance-I’m a simple person who did not leave behind his love of sweet tea when he left North Carolina. Thanks to the Internet I can order the bags that make my brew, and there’s always a cold pitcher in the fridge. Two family size bags, half a pitcher frozen, the other half boiled and steeped, 1⁄3 cup of sugar, a wedge of lemon, and the secret: 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda. Seriously, try it.
Discuss in the comments, on your social media platform of choice, in person, or all of the above.