Should the NCAA Institute College Football Preseason Games?
As college football spring practice is quickly approaching, teams all across the country will be hosting their annual spring games, which are money—making spectacles that vaguely resemble the NFL's preseason.
Teams with long traditions and rabid fan bases that are anxious for football— i.e. Alabama and Penn State— have enjoyed packed stadiums, TV contracts and lots and lots of money in recent years due to these scrimmages.
And since money has proven to be king in college football thanks to the BCS, it makes sense that the NCAA would consider adding an NFL—like preseason to give teams additional practice and more importantly, reel in some more dollars.
The preseason has certainly worked for the NFL. It has given fans a taste of football four weeks early, brought in money and gotten the league more TV exposure.
However, the NCAA isn't the NFL and it's made it quite clear that it wants to remain separate and not mimic the NFL's every move.
But this may be too good of a deal for the NCAA to pass up, especially with the amount of money that could be brought in.
Take Penn State, for example.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Nittany Lions bring in six million on a typical Saturday. And while Penn State is in no desperate need for more money, no team can ignore an extra six million dollars.
If the preseason lasted four weeks and included two home games, top programs such as Penn State could be bringing in upwards of $12 million before the season even started.
And due to the Lions' tendency to schedule all their non—conference games at Beaver Stadium against Little Sisters of the Poor, a similar approach could bring four preseason home games and $24 million to State College before the first regular season game.
Add that to TV contracts and teams and conferences could be making tens of millions of dollars in August alone. For a sport that revolves around money, that's a tough prospect to ignore.
But what other benefits are there besides money?
The obvious benefit is extra practice.
In college basketball, many teams opt for exhibition games against junior colleges to warm up for the regular season. This vital practice has proved vital, as No. 1 seed Syracuse got all of its preseason jitters out in an exhibition loss to LeMoyne in November.
An early season loss wouldn't have been a killer for Syracuse and the Orange probably still would have ended up with a one or two seed. But in college football, an early season loss can all but end a team's hopes of a national championship.
While all of these reasons certainly point toward a college football preseason being a good idea for the sport, there is one overriding factor that could scare teams away.
Football is a much more physical game than basketball and injuries are very frequent throughout the regular season.
Adding four, or even one more game, adds a huge risk for injury and could end the national championship hopes of a very good team before the regular season even begins.
Spring games are the perfect alternative to a preseason.
Sure, they don't add as much competition, but coaches can choose which players aren't allowed to get hit and can still provide fans with an entertaining, early game.
As for money, some teams, such as Penn State will still sell out and the Nittany Lions can still bring in a lot of money. Media exposure won't be a top problem for the top programs either, as ESPN already has the rights to Penn State's 2010 spring game.
So, in short, adding a preseason will definitely come up for the NCAA and it may have a tough time giving up money. But coaches and players will lobby hard against the prospect of a preseason to avoid injuries.
Spring games seem like a perfect compromise between both parties. And while adding a preseason is still a possibility, hopefully the league will stick to the current system and protect the sport and its players.
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