The Intrigue of Spring Games

It doesn't go in the record book, but there's still a special intrigue ... a spring football fix ... when it comes to spring games. That was true at Kansas State where 12,000-plus were on hand to scrutinize the quarterbacking talents of Carson Coffman, plus at Ohio State where nearly 96,000 fans were in attendance.

Saturday's in the fall have a bit of Very Berry Strawberry, a tad of Pistachio, a dab of Bubble Gum, and a dash of Rainbow Sherbet.

But spring football games? They are as Vanilla as can be with nothing on the line.

That's noth-ing.

As Bill Snyder said immediately after Kansas State's recent Purple-White game, "Have you ever thing anything as boring?"

Still, Ohio State's scrimmage last month drew 95,722 fans, and Alabama's workout was televised by ESPN and drew better than 80,000 fans.

Tops among Big 12 entries was Nebraska with a spring game crowd of 77,670, followed by Texas at 44,000 and Oklahoma 28,592, according to a survey conducted by the University of Colorado.

Kansas State's figure of 12,804, ranked No. 6 in the league behind NU, UT and OU, plus Kansas (17,000) and Missouri (13,122).

Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Colorado were all in the 12,000 range, while Texas A&M and Iowa State each had a crowd of 7,000, and Baylor 1,000.

Snyder says he's never been a "strong proponent" of spring games, but understands the importance of the fan intrigue to get a spring gridiron fix.

This year, in particular, Snyder said the game had some significance in that the day was used to coordinate a new staff with the players. Players had a first-hand look on how game-days would be conducted starting with pre-game warm-ups, halftimes, and game management.

The only difference this year was that Snyder had his entire staff on the sideline to make the most out of every snap in terms of correcting mistakes and stressing fundamentals.

But in any other year, Snyder openly admits that he would rather have a 15th three-hour practice than a somewhat controlled scrimmage.

The fans, however, want to grade the Wildcats even though the game is played with nearly a tag football set of rules that include protecting the quarterback at all costs and no punt returns.

For all Division I schools in 2008, the average attendance was 12,703, while 3,465 for non-BCS schools. SEC schools averaged 31,311, which is more than 46 Division I schools averaged in regular-season play.

Even with modestly priced tickets, the game can generate significant funds. In 2008, NU's game grossed $820,000 in ticket sales and concessions.

In 2009, teams charged from $15 at Notre Dame, to three items of food at Missouri, to no charge at all for multiple schools.

Only the University of Iowa did not have a spring game open to its fans.

And if not for dollars and cents, the weekend can be used for recruiting and national exposure. After having Florida's 2007 spring game televised, coach Urban Meyer said, "At first I didn't want to have the game televised, but recruiting is such a major player. It's the bloodline of our program. If ESPN isn't here, they are going to be somewhere else."

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