June Jones the head football coach of SMU recently suggested that the Group of Five (G5) conferences should move to a spring football schedule. While the idea was quickly dismissed by commissioners from three of the conferences belonging to the G5, it did raise enough chatter to be discussed amongst various media outlets. While the concept is interesting, here are eight reasons why this idea will never be set in motion.
1. Conflicts with the academic calendar
The time and preparation during a college football season is extensive. Leaving aside the 14-week regular season schedule there is the preseason and an additional month-long bowl season. The timeframe between the start and end of the spring semester is barely enough for a real college football season. Meanwhile the fall semester football schedule allows student athletes the opportunity to use the summer break for preseason activities and the winter break for postseason activities. Student athletes won’t have the same amount of flexibility to prepare for football in the spring as they normally would in the fall.
2. It alters the student-school relationship
Besides reason number one, there is a second major reason why college football is played in the fall. Universities don’t just field teams to win championships; they have a number of reasons for doing so that are not related to athletics. One of these reasons is to take advantage of the rally around the flag affect. University presidents love having sports rally the campus around a common cause. It creates unity among the campus, causes students and alumni to become more involved with their school, but also gives a reason for anyone associated with the university to take pride in their school. College football is a tool used by universities to build a strong relationship between the school and its alumni, students, family of students, and local population. This is especially important at the beginning of the academic year when there is a large amount of new students on campus. It is vital to the university to introduce the “fresh meat” to the football season as soon as possible. Entering the fall semester new students are looking to gain acceptance from their peers and are eager to participate in the schools functions. By spring semester students have settled in and have already found new friends/school functions. They will then be significantly less likely to support the team in the same manner that they would in the fall.
3. Conflicts with the NFL draft
The G5 will never match the talent level of the Power-Five (P5), however the G5 still has enough NFL talent to make the NFL draft a major problem. Having a football season that directly overlaps with the months-long draft process where draftees are hiring agents and attending NFL combines/team workouts is impossible to imagine. You can’t expect a student athlete to add that workload on top of his already busy schedule. The travel commitment alone makes this a huge problem. Most importantly having active college football players signing agents during the college football season violates NCAA rules. These issues will cause huge headaches for G5 schools. It will also scare away any recruit who thinks he has a legitimate shot at making it to the pro level. This is a hard pill to swallow for the G5 considering they produced two top-five picks in each of the two previous NFL drafts.
4. Loss of rivalries
There are a number of historic rivalries between the G5 and P5 such as Navy-Notre Dame, Colorado-Colorado State, and Utah-BYU. These are games of high importance and would lead to major backlash from fans amongst both the G5 and P5 if they were eliminated.
5. Lack of access to bowl games
All the postseason bowls are played during the winter break. The G5 will find themselves locked out of most of these bowl games if they switch to a spring football schedule. This is especially true with the more prestigious bowls such as the Outback, Cotton, and Rose bowls. While the G5 has only a limited chance to play in these bowls as things stand now, the status quo is still significantly better than playing spring football with none of the prestigious bowls being included.
6. Causes competition with college basketball
While football snags most of the headlines, for the majority of the NCAA membership basketball is a vital sport. The NCAA tournament for most Division I conferences has the same level of importance as the major bowl games for FBS programs. If the G5 moves to that time slot with spring football they would effectively find themselves ostracized politically from the rest of the NCAA.
7. Spring has a different mentality from the fall
Towards the end of the spring semester, students are focused on obtaining summer employment, moving out of their dorms, and/or planning major trips. The end of the semester attitude between spring and fall is extremely different. Towards the end of spring students do not have the same amount of downtime as they would during the end of the fall football season, a time when students are commonly focused on national championships.
8. It eliminates P5 matchups
Schools from the G5 often use “buy games” to earn large pay checks to play a single away game for a P5 program. For some of these programs that paycheck is ultimately what keeps the budget balanced. The other benefits of P5 matchups is that they allow G5 schools the opportunity to promote their schools brand on a much bigger stage than they ever could. The branding opportunities of FBS and the general association with these very schools is the essential reason why the overwhelming majority of G5 schools field FBS teams in the first place. Giving up that P5 association is giving up the biggest reason why these schools choose the headache of playing big time football in the first place.
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© sportspolitico July 21, 2014