Photo courtesy of Neon Tommy
As college football teams around the country wrap up their spring practices, each fan base begins the inevitable conversation of “is this finally our year?” Who can blame the overly optimistic fan after they’ve watched all the videos of incoming freshmen, read all the articles on impact upperclassmen and listened to all the interviews with cliché answers from coaches? The dog days of no football are grueling, but the hype train surrounding spring ball makes it even worse.
The offseason is ideal for teams in any sport as they decide what roles each athlete will play. Every coach on staff works overtime to make sure the team is ready for the season opener. However, the problem evolves when the media gets involved and begins giving daily reports of the practices. Spring ball should be used to determine a team’s needs, not as a measuring stick for how successful they will be in the upcoming season.
The issue of looking too much into offseason play carriers over into the regular season, as media members vote on the preseason top 25 teams. The poll normally includes five or six teams that quickly drop out in the opening weeks. In Week 1 of the 2016 season, the Texas Longhorns defeated the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who began the year ranked 10th. The thrilling victory was viewed as a statement win for the Longhorns, until the Irish finished just 4-8. There is nothing to gain from preseason polls.
On a few occasions, we are reminded of impactful storylines that come out of the offseason. During Ohio State’s spring game, Jacob Jarvis, a young man with muscular dystrophy, crossed the pylon in his wheelchair and scored the final touchdown of the game. Head coach Urban Meyer said it was the players’ idea to honor the super-fan. Similar inspiring moments take place on campuses throughout the nation.
From a spectator’s perspective, spring games are an entertaining and enjoyable experience. I attended the University of Utah’s this year, and it was intriguing to get a glimpse of the new additions to the squad. In 2016 Ohio State set a record with 100,189 fans at its game. Obviously, fans will take advantage of any football they can get their eyes on and this is perfectly fine. However, it’s time we begin putting less stock in how a team performs in the spring when quarterbacks cannot even be touched and consequently put an end to the preseason top 25 poll. Doing so will only make college football more appealing.