- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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The first Big Ten spring games arrive in two weeks as teams stage their glorified intrasquad scrimmages with often goofy scoring systems for fans.
But would it be more exciting if those teams were playing actual scrimmages against other college teams?
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney sure thinks so. Swinney told the Atlanta Journal Constitution this week that he's a big advocate of college football "exhibition games" in the spring.
Swinney proposes that all teams would have the option of either playing intrasquad scrimmages or facing another team for their spring games. Opponents would both be outside of teams' own conferences but located within a reasonable driving distance. Coaches could negotiate the rules of the scrimmage.
"Personally, I think it would be a good thing for college football to do,” Swinney told the AJC. “College football takes in a lot of money. I think it would be an opportunity to give something back to your school or a charity.
“The other side of it is this: We’re already doing it in basketball. Our basketball teams play other teams but it’s closed, so nobody knows about it. For example, Clemson plays Georgia in basketball every year. But it’s a closed scrimmage. You know, nobody can be in there except the two teams. If they didn’t want to do any type of public thing, I wouldn’t have a problem with having a closed football scrimmage where nobody could be there but the staffs of both teams.”
The newspaper suggested several dream scrimmage matchups, including Penn State-Pittsburgh and Oklahoma vs. Nebraska. We could add some others, like Ohio State-Cincinnati, Illinois-Missouri or Iowa-Missouri, Indiana-Kentucky, Northwestern-Notre Dame, etc.
On Thursday, Michigan coach Brady Hoke said he is in favor of the idea.
"I think that would be kind of cool," Hoke told reporters. "I've thought of it before. Whether we do like the NFL -- different teams going to different places, interacting for two days, three days, off that model -- I thought that would be kind of neat if you could do that."
Not every coach is in favor of the idea. Kentucky's Joker Phillips told the Atlanta paper, "A lot of teams use their spring practices and spring game to get their team better with fundamentals. I would be opposed to playing another vicious game and losing a kid for the rest of the season."
Injuries are a concern, though there's no guarantee of player safety in a spring game when players are still battling hard for playing time and to impress their coaches and fans. Perhaps it's not a great idea to have these spring scrimmages involve longtime, if dormant, rivals like Penn State and Pitt or Oklahoma and Nebraska. Those old rivalry feelings could bring out more animosity than is needed for a spring scrimmage and could lead to some injuries.
But spring games sure would be spiced up from what they are now, which are mostly vanilla schemes often featuring the No. 1 offense beating up on defensive reserves and vice versa.
What do you think? Would you like to see these kind of scrimmages in the spring, or would you rather save the opponents for the fall?
4dBrian Bennett and Josh Moyer