The spring game is a rite of passage in college football, and it's easy to see why. The benefits are numerous. A spring game serves as a rallying point to get recruits on campus, a day of outreach with a fan base that you won't see again until the fall and, most importantly, a carrot at the end of a month-long stick for your players.
But there's also some risk involved with holding a spring game.
With fans and recruits trekking to campus, a spring game locks you into practicing on that date - rain or shine. With only 15 practice dates in between last season and next, a spring game puts one of those precious practice dates in the dangerous hands of Mother Nature and Murphy's Law. A thunderstorm, a flu bug or any other malady leaves you seven percent less prepared than your competitors.
Pittsburgh won't hold a spring game this year, and the guaranteed chance to maximize every workout is why head coach Paul Chryst made the decision to axe the Panthers' spring jamboree.
“The thought behind [the decision], honestly, is to get one more good work day out of them,” Chryst told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Most, if not every spring game I’ve been a part of, you really end up sacrificing a lot. It sounds crazy, but just being locked into a place, bad weather. … You’re kind of locked into that day. These days are really valuable for us.”
Chryst believes the benefit of a 15th practice will outweigh the cost of foregoing a chance to let fans get a peek at the 2014 Panthers.
“It’s a little bit selfish doing what’s best for the program,” Chryst said. “You appreciate [the fans]. You don’t want it to come off as not being appreciative. It’s not the intent. But there is real conviction that for this group of guys, the guys in the building … you feel really good that this is the right thing. You hope the people appreciate that.”
Most schools won't change their thinking on holding a spring game - and perhaps rightfully so - but it's worth giving an extra 10 seconds of thought.