Leach 7-on-7 comment got us thinking (or not)

CONGRATULATIONS. You've made made it through another weekend this offseason without any Washington State games to tide you over. Cougar football? Not since November. Basketball ended in March. Even the last baseball game feels like eons ago. But a Mike Leach comment on the radio got us to thinking -- what if there were some true, competitive football events held in the spring or summer?

No, not suggesting the Cougs and other schools strap on the pads and play games in the warmer months of the year. We were thinking something smaller, yet still compelling enough that the masses would attend in person and/or tune in.

Oh, it will never happen.

But Mike Leach’s comment about how huge the 7-on-7 passing leagues have been in helping high school quarterbacks (and receivers and running backs) transition to the college game got us wondering about the next logical step.

“I think it's been gigantic,” Leach said on 102.5 The Game in Nashville. “I think that's why so many quarterbacks have popped up in recent years. (It's) gotten more people interested so now you can play all year long... and the quarterbacks have gotten to throw a ton of balls so their skills are polished at an all-time high, higher than they ever have been in the history of the sport.”

Many school already run a summer skelly here or there against a nearby school before fall camp. WSU and Idaho have gone against one another many times. But those are thrown together events planned by the players. No coaches are involved. The challenges to having schools compete against one another in a sanctioned 7-on-7 event are plentiful.

The first would of course be about the potential for injury. The costs of putting on a game day type of event could also be problematic. There’s the issue of cutting into a football staff’s vacation time. Some coaches might balk at showing another team too much. What do you do with the offensive linemen at a time when coaches are trying to foster team building?

The injury factor might not be as pronounced as initially thought. There’s no contact, no pads in skelly. The first ACL tear, though, would be national news and critics would scream bloody murder. But think about it.

Alabama lost a RB to an ACL tear in spring ball. Illinois lost the best player on their team, WR Mike Dudeck, to an ACL tear this spring too.

No one suggested doing away with spring football after those injuries. There was lament but also the sense that this is football – season-ending injuries don’t happen a lot in the offseason, but they do happen.

The costs are the bigger challenge. Indeed, if you can’t make it a money maker, you need to forget it. So cut down the travel and make it a two-series, home-and-home against the rival. Or you could go with a three-day, double-elimination event at a central location over a long weekend. Televise it on the Pac-12 Networks (with the Pac-12 leading the way to become the first of the Power 5 conferences to create a 7-on-7 competition).

The coaches would probably have to give up a week, maybe a little more, of their vacation time. But most Americans get two weeks paid vacation, not a month or more that most coaches do. And football coaches studying game film are going to be able to glean far, far more about any opponent than they will by padless, 7-on-7 passing leagues.

Bring the offensive linemen along, have them go against the other o-lines in separate completions. Call if the Festivus feats of strength - whatever. Just make it compelling, determinant of the winner and fun.

If those obstacles (and more) are enough to stop it dead in its tracks, the benefits would be substantial. As much as QB development has been improved through the prep passing leagues, as Leach notes, that improvement would continue if Luke Falk (pictured above) and the Cougar pass catchers could compete against other Pac-12 schools. The Cougar linebackers and defensive backs would of course also benefit significantly from competition against someone other than their teammates.

There’s a real monetary opportunity here, too, if the Pac-12 were to do it right. Fans, meanwhile, would relish the chance to see some football in the summer, and for their team beat their rival.

But no, it will likely never happen. Change is hard, and in college football it is at times impossible with multiple power brokers staking out ground for their own self-betterment. Look at the satellite camp issue, or their early signing period debate. If they can't agree on those, forget about something as radical as a proposed passing league competition.

Still, it sure would have been nice to have seen the Cougs take on another Pac-12 team today. And win.


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