To Game or Not: The Value of Spring Games Varies from Coach to Coach

By Kyle Rowland on March 25, 2014 at 9:20a

Spend five minutes talking to a football coach and they’ll quickly tell you how valuable practice time is. That’s what makes the month-long buildup to the spring game so vital. And practice No. 15 is just as significant.

Every coach has a different take on spring games. They’re loved and loathed, used as game prep and treated as a glorified practice. Meyer is a proud member of the group that sees immense usefulness in spring games.

“I’m going to do it every year because I just think it’s priceless for a player to get a rep in front of 50, 60, 70,000 fans,” he said. “If I was at a school where you get 400 people, I might [stop playing the game] because what are you really getting. I just think you find out about a Dontre Wilson, you find out about a Raekawn McMillan, Johnnie Dixon.

“You find out how these kids perform when the lights go on at a place like Ohio State where you get a good crowd. As long as we can, we'll always have a spring game.”

But the number of coaches who agree are beginning to dwindle.

Oklahoma State and Texas A&M are two high profile programs who’ve said sayonara to the spring game, at least for this season. The Cowboys will host a free practice open to the public with many pointing to a competitive quarterback race as the reason. Head coach Mike Gundy has been secretive in the past.

The Aggies’ main issue is their home, Kyle Field, is undergoing an extensive renovation this offseason. But head coach Kevin Sumlin wasn’t shedding any tears over the games absence.

“I miss it for the fans,” Sumlin said. “Last year, we had 50,000 people here and ESPN here as a great recruiting opportunity, great national exposure for the program. It’s a great thing for fans. It was a beautiful day to get out and see the team. But from a football standpoint, I’ll be honest with you, you guys know me. That second half goes real quick. I'm ready to get out of there. The goal of that day is to look halfway decent and get out of that thing without getting anybody hurt. That’s the goal of that. For the fans, it’s a bigger deal.”

It’s true at most universities, but especially Ohio State. The annual Scarlet and Gray game is treated like one of seven – or eight – Saturdays in the fall when fans from all corners of the state descend on Ohio Stadium. Tailgate lots are full, grills give off the familiar aroma of hot dogs, brats and burgers and the marching band plays a soundtrack many find as well-known as the Beatles and Bruce Springsteen.

The real game feel doesn’t end with the atmosphere. Face value of game tickets reaches $20. That might be nearly $60 cheaper than a regular season game, but it’s still a considerable cost for a family of four when concessions are added into the equation.

All for a game that features split-squad teams made up just hours before the opening kick. If there is one at all. Last season’s game at Cincinnati's Paul Brown Stadium didn’t feature kickoffs. 

“It’s worthless to us when you have guys playing with starters and guys that are never going to play just to make two different teams,” Sumlin said. “We’ll probably get more out of it from a practice standpoint.”

Sumlin’s opinion isn’t wrong. The spring game is one day, while there are two weeks worth of practices where teams set the two-deep, add depth and create cohesion. During the month of March, one of Meyer’s main focuses has been developing and furthering the culture of the 2014 team.

Four to six seconds of relentless effort and going hard from point A to point B have been staples of the Meyer message. Effort trumps all else.

“I want to make sure there's clarity of purpose at Ohio State,” Meyer said. “And it’s not being scared of making a mistake, it’s not being timid. It’s a very aggressive approach to everything that we do.”

Meyer asks his team to play angry, and that aggression and ferocity is channeled toward the opponent. Ohio State’s haggard defense became a major issue at the conclusion of last season with Meyer vowing to correct any lingering mishaps.

The hiring of Larry Johnson and Chris Ash were the first step. Now, it’s about putting together the best product on the field. The most efficient unit involves the best 11 players doing their 1/11th, according to Meyer.

“I’m the kind of person we don’t blame and complain and defend. We call it BCD,” he said. “There’s not a whole lot of BCD around here. We’v got to find out what the issue is and fix it. Obviously, there’s some issues, and if you’re blame and complain, you're going to blame players and blame coaches. We don’t do that. We try to find out the issue and fix the issue. Obviously, if you have insubordination or bad people, you have to eliminate things. But we don't have that here.”

It’s a buy-in haven with all hands on deck. Even former Rutgers and Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano stopped by for three days last week. Before that, the offensive staffs from Clemson and Texas A&M visited Ohio State’s coaches. Any and all information is being gathered to improve the quality of play.

“There’s never been a game, in my 27 years of coaching, that I’ve seen a team that didn't play hardest win that game,” Meyer said. “Lack of execution and lack of technique, you can overcome that with incredible effort. You can’t overcome lack of effort with great technique. It doesn't happen. At some point, you’ll fail.” 

And it might even be in front of thousands of fans at the spring game. 


Comments Show All Comments

mh277907's picture

You find out how these kids perform when the lights go on at a place like Ohio State where you get a good crowd. As long as we can, we'll always have a spring game.

I know he didn't mean it literally, but the Spring Game at night would be the bees knees.


+8 HS
BrooklynBuckeye's picture

Exactly what I thought. Why not a Spring (Night) Game?! What an amazing recruiting tool. It would be covered in all the national media too. "Ohio State has a raucous crowd of 90,000 under the lights for scrimmage"! 

+6 HS
Squirrel Master's picture

well that is the purpose of the Friday Night Lights event but I agree that a night Spring Game, filled with 90+ would be great for the recruiting and I would so love to go. I mean I still go to the Spring Game anyways but I wouldn't hesitate for a night game at all.

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

+2 HS
whobdis's picture

Is the current lighting in the stadium sufficient for a night game? There was a time that networks had to bring in supplemental lights for the night games.

+1 HS
BrooklynBuckeye's picture

Good point. Maybe that's the holdup. B1G Ten Network, I think that's your music...

bucksfan92's picture

I am fairly certain Ohio Stadium now has enough permanent lighting for night games without the temporary sets the TV folks used to have to truck in here.  It was done rather quietly, but was inevitable once Andy-we-only-play-afternoon-games-Geiger retired.

DMcDougal24's picture

If someone photoshopped a gun in that hand it'd look just like a James Bond movie poster. 

+6 HS
Seattle Linga's picture

Nice and I see it.............

A night game would be off the charts - not just "Another Saturday night"

+1 HS
CGroverL's picture

Meyer...Urban Meyer? hmmmm....what drink would you choose for "shaken, not stirred"? Juice, maybe?

"I hope they're last in everything". One of Meyer's comments when speaking of TTUN after being hired at Ohio State.



MN Buckeye's picture

And these are the reasons why Urban is the best coach in the land.

BuckFly's picture

Gene Smith disagrees, UFM is #8

 "Urban's still in the top 10. He's probably in the top 8, he came in at top 5, he's probably slidden, he might be in the top 8 now. There will be a time, probably when he wins a championship, or there's some elite performance of that nature where we need to look at the market again."

m5987usus's picture

I do not think he was talking about ufm as a coach I think he was talking about salary wise.


+2 HS
ep's picture

I'm assuming Gene Smith was referring to Urban's salary rank, not how good of a coach he is.  That would be seriously messed up, and wrong to boot.

+1 HS
BuckeyeSouth's picture

I'm just hoping that we can get through the spring practices with no more injuries.  That plus some big-time hoping that we don't have any off-the-field issues.  Would love to go into the fall with everyone healthy and noone in trouble.

Champions.  Undisputed.  

+1 HS
Baroclinicity's picture

If I happen to be in town and someone throws tickets at me, I'll go.  Otherwise, ho hum for me. 

When you're holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

nburns18's picture

Cant wait for the spring game. kind of a little teaser until late august. I was at the one where there was 97,000 (national spring game record) i would love for us to have 100,000 at a spring game. But to add on to what you guys said above, a night spring game would be awesome. get espn in here to nationally broadcast and then invite every top recruit on our radar to be there. 

"You win with people." -Woody Hayes

KBonay's picture

It's simple. It's a huge recruiting tool and won't go away under Meyer. 

+1 HS
Chief B1G Dump's picture

I'm not a spring game kinda guy by any means, I've been to 1 or 2, and will watch for the first 3/4s of the game just because Im football starved by then...BUT I think the spring game is a great dress rehearsal.  If you think about it, it is indeed a chance for new players and also new coaches to get in front of that crowd and feel the nerves, the juice and the pressure of the crowd.  Also, I think at a place like Ohio State, our 2 deeps are going to be a better game than at least half of our schedule.  Our split spring squad could have easily gone 8-4 last year with our schedule.

Again, I think if you're going to practice anyway, and everybody does, the spring game is a great dress rehearsal...and a tool for both motivation, practice, recruiting, evaluation and a "breaking in" type process.  Most of these kids just want to get out and play, especially in front of big crowds.

MichiganBuckeye222's picture

Head coach Mike Gundy has been secretive in the past


in fairness, he's 40, and hes a man

Representing the Buckeyes in the Mitten State since 1987.


+5 HS
BassDropper's picture

He has to be close to 50 now, no?


+1 HS
Seattle Linga's picture

Nope still 40 sorry

+2 HS
Ericgobucks's picture

I went to the spring game at Crew Stadium when the were doing renovations at Ohio Stadium. I just didn't care for it. It is interesting in the sense of position battles, but lacks the feel of a game environment, in my opinion. But I love that we get 70+ thousand for it. That's a nice comparable to other programs who say their fans are most passionate. Hard to beat that many people for a practice. 

brandonbauer87's picture

I love the spring games when the weather cooperates. Cold weather and rain make me lose interest in a scrimmage very quickly. 

cinserious's picture

I really enjoy having Meyer as head coach because he's so open about his thoughts and philosophies and I feel like I can personally gain from his knowledge and insight. The 'Urban Way' can really be applied to improve my home life, work life, etc.

I will draw from this article his BCD (blame,complain,defend) principles and recognize when people do it and replace it with 'Find it (the problem) and Fix it'.

One day I will valiantly become a political prisoner of 11W jail.

+1 HS
bleedscarlet's picture

I'm glad he likes the SG, it's a great glimpse into the future. I'd imagine the players like it also...

Slingin' swag since 1970


DenBuck's picture

Love the photo of Urbz...

Buckeye For Life

osubuckeye4life's picture

'Meyer, Urban Meyer'