College Football Teams Embracing the Weird This Spring, and That's a Good Thing

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College Football Teams Embracing the Weird This Spring, and That's a Good Thing
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY

The crowd was anxious, the pressure mounting as a human wall enclosed the scene. It all came down to one short field goal, a chip shot by most kickers’ standards. The snap was low—but good enough—and the holder quickly inverted the football and placed it on the ground, just like he had done a thousand times before.

All eyes then turned to the kicker, undersized and inexperienced.

As the approach toward the ball began, there was silence. Only the thumping base and the faint sound of music could be heard in the background. And that’s when Nicki Meyer—the daughter of Ohio State coach Urban Meyer—sent her kick sailing past Ohio State’s mascot, Brutus the Buckeye, whose cartoonish large hands came just short of YouTube greatness.

While the kick was off course, Brutus’ redemption from last season’s spring embarrassment would have to wait for another year.

This was the scene at Ohio State on April 5 for the third annual Student Appreciation Practice, where approximately 2,500 Ohio State fans attended, according to the school. There was actual football sprinkled in, of course, but this day—in large part—was constructed for the fans.

Some attendees got to race players, while others showed up for signatures. Others—including Nicki Meyer—even attempted a field goal with the Buckeyes team. The scene was strange, unnecessary and absolutely magnificent.

The fact that a major football program took time out of an integral part of its limited interaction with players is telling. It's also good for the average fan. And thankfully, such hands-on spring opportunities are now becoming protocol and will only continue to evolve.

Ohio State has bridged the gap between team and fans by opening up its doors for a day. Others, like Georgia, are allowing one lucky fan to draw up his or her very own offensive play for its spring football game.

If you’ve wanted to embrace your inner Art Briles from your couch with your son or daughter’s colored pencils, the Bulldogs are giving you that chance. And if it’s good enough, it might just go from concept to creation in one of the SEC’s biggest offseason scrimmages.

One play not enough? Well, how about something more. How about getting paid to kick a 50-yard field goal or out-throw a college quarterback? (Reconstructive shoulder surgery and meniscus operations are NOT included, at least as far as we know.)

That’s what Arizona is offering at its spring game, which means it’s time to bust out the Sambas and give it a go.

Still not good enough? Well, then this is probably right up your alley. How would you like to take over the head coaching reins at a major program for an entire day?

You can, if you’re the highest bidder on eBay.

Arkansas State and the Red Wolves Foundation are currently offering this possibility to the individual who comes out on top of this lovely eBay listing. As outlined in the description on the page, your experience will include the following:

·       Head Coach for the game on Friday, April 18.

·       Give the pregame and halftime talk.

·       You choose whether your team 'goes for it' or punts on 4th down.

·       You get to call for the deep ball, trick play, run or pass, blitz, etc.

·       On headset with the staff throughout the entire game.

·       Winning Coach will receive a Powerade bath (and bragging rights)!

·       Photos of your Coaching Experience.

·       Coaching Gear.

Admit it. You’ve always wanted to enjoy the shocking chill of a sports drink being dumped on your head in large amounts by players who are contractually obligated to call you “Coach” for a few hours.

Haven’t we all.

While most teams have yet to take it as far as Arkansas State has, some—including Ohio State, Georgia and others—are pushing this involvement further. They’re doing so because many teams do care about appealing to their fanbases, but it’s also good for business.

If you’re a major program, this is a no-brainer. While the limited practice hours are vital for player development and system familiarity, improving the relationship with your fans can have benefits beyond those benefiting directly from what you’re offering.

It garners attention—like this article you’re reading right now—and the countless other blog posts that were made to highlight a fact that a team put coaching duties on eBay. It’s marketing, and in the age of social media, it has a chance of hitting more eyeballs than ever before.

If you do something cool and different, chances are it will spread through the various news mediums with tremendous pace.

Marketing—in the college football realm—can mean much more than headlines and shares on Facebook. It can also help out brand awareness and, in turn, recruiting. While it’s a leap to assume that paying fans for 50-yard field goals will suddenly flood the cupboard with 5-star talents, the extra attention certainly cannot hurt these efforts.

At the very least, there will be discussions taking place about a school (or team) that wouldn't have transpired in the first place.

For the fans, regardless of the intentions, they should embrace the opportunities. The sport can be robotic in ways, especially come fall, and coaches and players rarely break character given its cutthroat nature. Involving the fans for a day is a chance for everybody to let down their guard. In its simplest form, it's a way to feel like you're a part of the team you care far too deeply about.

Even if it's only a few hours, you might be a big part for that day. 

So let’s get weird. Bring on the mascots blocking field goals, Joe Bulldog’s version of Four Verts, the eBay coaches, the $500 pipe-dream field goals and whatever else you have in store. 

Market yourselves accordingly. Just bring us along for the ride.

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