Stuart McNair

Alabama Coach Nick Saban urges Alabama fans to attend A-Day on April 16

Idea of an exhibition game to end spring practice doesn’t appeal to Alabama’s Nick Saban

This is the time of year when there is talk of college football teams ending their 15 days of spring practice with some sort of exhibition game against another college team rather than an intrasquad game.


While this may seem like, “Heck, yes! Everyone would rather see a game,” there are understandable complications.


There have been suggestions that major college teams play spring games against other major college teams. That is not going to happen. Even if – and it’s a big if – teams ever are given the option of an exhibition game, don’t expect to see Alabama vs. Notre Dame in a game that supposedly doesn’t matter.


If any scenario for an spring exhibition is at all realistic, it would be major college teams playing lower division teams, the FCS teams that one sees Alabama playing the week before the Auburn game.


(Not Georgia Southern, though. Alabama Coach Nick Saban has previously pointed out in colorful language how Georgia Southern ran through the Crimson Tide’s 2011 national championship team.)


One has to think that if the spring exhibitions were given NCAA approval (which would come only by a vote of NCAA members) that the games would have to be optional. Teams with a new head coach likely would not be interested in trying to prepare a team for a game.


Conferences likely would have the right to make policy on such exhibitions. For instance, the Southeastern Conference might elect to make spring games intraconference, Alabama vs. Georgia, for instance. Or a conference might opt out completely.


Saban does not seem enthusiastic about the possibility. He said, “I'm not naïve enough to not think that we're not in the entertainment business, so sometimes the fans have interest in certain things and maybe that's something we should consider. Me personally, I think you get a lot more out of spring practice when you just practice the things you want to practice to get ready for the fall and you don't have some game preparation that you have to get ready for because you're going to play somebody in spring. That's just my selfish coach coming out, all right? But I'm sure the fans would rather see that.”


Although the team that plays a fall schedule is not completely the one that practices the following spring – Saban has often pointed out that a college team changes by about 25 pert cent from year-to-year – it does include a number of men who have played a full schedule that may have ended just a few months before spring practice. That’s an issue for Saban.


“Whether it’s better for players or not would be my number one concern,” he said. “I really can’t answer that. I don’t know if it is or isn’t. I know one thing: when you play 15 games and you don’t get finished playing until the middle of January, it takes a little time for your team to recover and the downtime until you start up again for spring practice is not that great.


“It’s a lot of football for college guys to play.”


One thing that seems likely is that a game against another team would appeal to players. An oft-repeated lament for decades and decades is that players get tired of playing against their teammates, can’t wait to compete against another team. So as much as players look forward to the spring game, playing against another team probably would be more anticipated.


One person who wants Alabama fans to be excited about the spring intrasquad game – really something of a scrimmage rather than a game – is Saban.


The Crimson Tide will have it’s a-Day Game in Bryant-Denny Stadium a week from Saturday, and the Bama coach is pushing for a nice crowd.


“A-Day is a special day around here,” he said. “I want our fans to know that it's really important to our players how they support our team during A-Day. That's something we've been really special at. But I think other people are trying to sort of copycat to their game a big thing so that they can say they had the most people at the spring game and all that.


“I think it's important that our fans show that they have just as much interest and enthusiasm for the program as they've ever had, and that they continue to come and support the team at this time of year. We're working hard to get ready for that game. I know our players really look forward to it, and it's always special to them if we have a great crowd there.”


It has also been pointed out that this is a time when fans can help Alabama football in recruiting. Prospects frequently point out how the passion of Crimson Tide fans by their attendance at the A-Day Game makes an impression on those making recruiting visits.


Alabama does not charge admission for it’s A-Day Game. The nine previous A-Day Games have averaged attendance of 81,504.


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