Over the past decade plus, there’s been a movement afoot in college football to close practices to fans. As frustrating as that may be for fans of big-time programs and the media that cover them, there obvious reasons — personal and practical — why coaches have closed the proverbial curtain to the public.
For starters, there’s a reason why only stand-up comedians practice their craft before a live audience. Best to make your mistakes in the dark so you’re prepared to shine when the light flips on.
But there is an opportunity cost to consider as well.
SEC football is played (in normal times) in front of tens of thousands of fans in person and millions on television. Sure, you can simulate pressure-packed environments in practice, but there’s no way to prepare for playing in front of people quite like… playing in front of people.
As his team prepares to replace starting quarterback Feleipe Franks, head Hog Sam Pittman told Paul Finebaum on Tuesday he plans to put his quarterbacks in front of a live studio audience for this Saturday’s scrimmage.
“A lot of guys look good in 1-on-1, non-team settings. We’re trying to find a guy that can look good in team settings. Part of the reason that we’ve opened our scrimmages up (is) because I want our quarterbacks to feel a little bit more pressure, and I think they’ll feel that a little bit more with fans in the stands.”
"I want the guys to feel a little pressure, that's one reason I opened up our practices to fans."
— Paul Finebaum (@finebaum) March 31, 2021
This isn’t just smart public-relations, it’s smart football.
Pittman has six quarterbacks on his roster — one with 41 career passes, another with 34, the other four with zero. In a sport without a preseason, there are limited opportunities to simulate a game environment ahead of an actual game. And while no one’s pretending 3,000 or so fans on a March Saturday is equal to 80,000 in September, it is a data point, and Pittman will need as many data points as he can gather in making the biggest decision of his head coaching life to this point.