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HCS Roundtable: Do Spring Games Matter Anymore?

The month of April provides Big 12 football fans the chance to finally see some football after a four-month hiatus. The weeks spanning January to mid-April can be some of the longest of the year for college football fans.

Sure, the transfer portal has provided enough from an entertainment standpoint to keep you interested, but there’s nothing that replaces the void of watching football in live action.

However, we’ve started to see a trend in college football that suggests spring games aren’t what they used to be. They get canceled because of bad weather in the forecast (Texas Tech and Baylor this weekend). In some cases, teams don’t even schedule a spring game in the first place (Oklahoma State, Kansas State).

 

So, do they actually matter, or do we romanticize spring games into being something that they’re not? The HCS staff gives their input in this week’s roundtable.

Pete Mundo

No. I remember moving to Kansas City and being thrilled to get to go to the Kansas and Kansas State spring games a few years ago. Now, they’re all a shell of what they were. They seem like fun events to take a family to, but in terms of finding much out about a football team, that ship has sailed. The value is limited. I get why the coaches want to protect their guys and not open a playbook, but I’m just not interested in a glorified practice. Plus, with the spring transfer portal, you don’t even know which one of these guys are actually going to stay. So count me out. Too bad.

 

Bryan Clinton

Yes. They still matter, but the reasons have changed. In years past, the spring game provided an opportunity for fans to get a glimpse at incoming players in their team’s system or to see how existing players have developed in the time since last season came to an end. Four months is a lifetime in terms of the college football calendar, and a player can totally transform in that amount of time, given the right weight and nutrition program. However, it’s become increasingly common for players to be held out of spring games if they’re dealing with any kind of injury. That, in and of itself, makes a ton of sense. At the end of the day, spring games are purely exhibition games; the score at the end doesn’t matter unless it’s deciding who gets steaks and who gets hot dogs.

Now, the focus has shifted, and given the context of what the landscape of college football looks like right now, it makes total sense. Spring games have become a chance to host transfer portal and high school targets for major recruiting weekends. With the spring transfer portal window opening alongside spring games across the country, there are ample opportunities to get players on campus and show them what a gameday atmosphere looks like. Do you think it’s a coincidence that the most successful programs in the country pick up a lot of recruiting momentum in the waning days of April every year? Spring games have become monumental recruiting weekends, and that’s honestly the only reason that they remain relevant.

 

Joe Tillery

Yes and no. There is a very specific context that spring games can be a benefit to universities, but nine times out of ten, there is virtually no point. The lone experience I’m focusing on is when schools use the day as a fundraiser event for the NIL collective through the use of a spring game. As an example, if fans were charged a small fee as a ticket price that went to the collective, I believe it could have potential, but outside of that, I’ve got nothing. Just look at Chris Klieman at Kansas State. The Wildcats don’t even attempt to host a spring game for fans because they don’t want to waste one of their 15 scheduled practices on a wild goose chase. I would expect more teams in the league to follow suit and do away with the spring game.

Matthew Postins

No. They don’t matter anymore. Of course, that entirely depends on your definition of ‘matter.’ I don’t believe they matter because, by the spring game, teams have gotten in basically all the work they need to leap into their summer work. And, because there are fewer restrictions on offseason workouts, programs are able to see their players more and more between the spring and the fall. Most starting jobs have been settled, and the ones that won’t start now have the option to transfer. In some cases, at certain position groups, you could be starting over in August after all that work. The game is a dressed-up spectacle now, designed to get fans to come to the game. There’s nothing wrong with that. But teams can get in the work without holding a traditional spring game. Basketball does it with closed scrimmages. Football could do the same thing, and it wouldn’t hurt my feelings. 

Derek Duke

No. Let’s be real here. In this day and age, spring games are nothing more than a glorified practice. In fact, some teams have what is called a “spring showcase,” which is basically a practice with a fancy name. And when the weather causes an issue, these “spring games” get canceled and are never rescheduled, so are they really that important to anyone? I get that these games are a chance to get guys some reps, but at the same time, the reps they get are just another opportunity for another school to get eyes on them. That’s just the way things work now with the transfer portal. The reason I don’t take much stock into these games anymore is that these teams will look drastically different between the time spring football ends and fall camp begins. The days when spring games matter are well behind us.

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