In what is surely one of the most Pitt moves ever, the University of Pittsburgh football program has cancelled their spring game for this year. Jeremy Fowler from CBS Sports followed up this story with a piece asking if Pitt was onto something by cancelling a spring tradition.
Why cancel a spring game?
- Poor weather
- Lack of bodies
- The extra practice is more valuable
- The vast majority of schools lose money
Also, in the case of Pitt no one wants to watch. The Panthers only had 3,642 fans show up last year for a night spring game held at Bethel Park High School and that's a decent figure for Pitt standards.
Are these legitimate concerns though? From my perspective I don't think many of them hold up.
Poor weather? Not for a lot of teams and anyway you can manage for one game. Even during this terrible and wretched winter the temperatures in South Bend should feel glorious by the time April comes.
Players can get hurt in practice. I think it's valuable for players to get some work in while more than 30 people are watching, and for Notre Dame players they really need the experience of performing inside the Stadium because they get precious opportunities to do so.
If you're really concerned about that extra practice helping out I think you'd better reevaluate your program and do things differently elsewhere.
I can understand the lack of bodies, that the game might be immensely boring, and some schools don't want to waste the cash. Still, you have to figure out a way to make it work and spin it to your advantage. Judging by the reaction over at the SB Nation Pitt site Cardiac Hill they are not happy with the decision to cancel.
Really? That's what we're going with? So Pitt is canceling a tradition that's gone on at Pitt since 1940 for one practice. Six months before the season begins?
...The ugly part for me is that instead of trying to make the game better, the university has instead chosen to ditch it, virtually citing their own inability to put out a good product. How about this? Instead of throwing in the towel, why doesn't the school make improvements to give fans a reason to show up?
...Want another reason hosting the game is practically mandatory? TV exposure. Pitt's game last year is even still up on ESPN for viewing on ESPN3 for crying out loud. Why would you ever pass up the chance to get your program on 'TV', even if it is ESPN3?
I swear, someone is sitting around thinking of ways NOT to generate excitement for the program and then doing just that.
There you have it, folks. It's plainly stupid to cancel a spring game if you want to be a major college football team. Even if you're not going to host a real game--and let's be honest the definition of 'game' gets stretched pretty far for almost any spring game--at least hold an open practice for your fans like Oklahoma State is doing.
The Blue Gold Game has been a success for Notre Dame and ditching it for an extra practice would be incredibly foolish. The Irish typically get a large crowd (for spring game standards), the game has been televised by NBC Sports Network in recent years, it's usually one of the biggest recruiting weekends of the entire year, and the game raises money for charity.
In short, Notre Dame makes the spring game a vehicle to give exposure to the football program. Even if the clock is running time in the second half the game is necessary for plenty of positive reasons.
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