Arizona Football

Good question: How will Arizona Wildcats spring “game” look in front of TV cameras?


Ohio State tried to show some generosity to fans while attempting to fill Ohio Stadium by lowering tickets for Saturday’s spring game to $5 from $20.

How nice of the Buckeyes’ administration.

If in the Lincoln, Neb., area today, you can get a ticket for the Red-White spring game on for as low as $24 or as much as $57.

So this is what it’s like when people outside of Tucson read about Sean Miller’s team drawing a sellout crowd for the Red-Blue scrimmage at McKale Center?

Arizona charges $8 for adults and $3 for children (ages 3-17) for the Red-Blue game. The event is a glorified scrimmage with a dunk contest. To Arizona’s credit, the event has included in recent years reunions of past elite teams such as the 1987-88 and 1993-94 Final Four teams. Without Midnight Madness, at least Arizona has tried to gain a captive audience and justify its ticket prices with some quality fanfare.

The popularity for a scrimmage at Arizona Stadium in the spring — more than four months before the football season begins — is quite the opposite of its basketball counterpart.

It does not matter when a scrimmage is set for Arizona’s football program, which needs to grow in stature for Arizona Stadium to be a happening place when the Wildcats are not facing an opponent. If a promoted scrimmage was staged say in mid-August at Arizona Stadium (the same time relation to when the Red-Blue game falls before Arizona’s opener in hoops) would the attendance be much different than today’s spring game?

My answer is no (and I have followed Arizona football since the mid 1970s).

Five spring football games today will air on ESPN and ESPNU, along with nine games streamed on The Big Ten Network is showing each of its members’ spring games tape-delayed or on its website.

All Pac-12 spring games will be televised live by the Pac-12 Networks beginning today with Colorado at 11:00 a.m., followed by both Arizona and Stanford spring games at 1:00 p.m. The rest of the Pac-12 spring games will air in the next two Saturdays.

Even if Rich Rodriguez wanted to go Pitt’s route and abandon a spring game and use it instead for another important day of practice he would have no choice because of the Pac-12 Networks arrangement.

Rodriguez is not a proponent of intrasquad scrimmages. Fans in attendance at Arizona Stadium today will be more entertained by seeing if a student can make a 50-yard field goal instead of whether Jesse Scroggins can lead the Wildcat offense consistently against the defense for 90 minutes in a Blue-White scrimmage. Why? Because that kind of scrimmage won’t happen. Ka’Deem Carey did not even participate in last year’s spring game.

Spring football games have grown in popularity from a marketing standpoint on national TV, especially for the highly-visible programs such as Ohio State, Nebraska, Alabama and Auburn, who use the opportunity mostly for recruiting purposes.

Arizona is not at that stage with its program. Empty seats at Arizona Stadium will instead be an eyesore on the Pac-12 Networks. Rodriguez can’t use that image to enhance his recruiting. He should lobby to have at least one Pac-12 Networks camera to remain inside the Lowell-Stevens Football Facility.

Why not attempt what Pitt and Oklahoma State are trying and engage fans by other means during the spring?

Pitt is inviting fans to a “Field Pass” on Sunday in which assistant coaches will address fans and players will hold on-field football clinics for children younger than high school age. Citing a lack of depth because of injury concerns, Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy has abandoned the spring game and opened spring practice for the general public on Saturdays to watch the Cowboys and interact with them afterward.

The NCAA allows 15 practices during the spring, so why not take full advantage of all of those days and not sacrifice one?

A program does not have to schedule a scrimmage to engage with its fans. In fact, it would be more productive for Arizona to savor its 15 allotted days to practice and use a different day for only the alternative activities that fans will experience Saturday.

Somebody from the stands will also try to out-throw an Arizona quarterback. Rodriguez will pick a fan to call a play for the offense. If the play does not result in a big gain or a touchdown, the thrill of that promotion will last for less than a minute. At least Arizona is creative with these promotions to increase fan interest.

As a fan, I would be more interested to watch the players go full bore in a practice setting. If not that, I’d rather meet and greet Arizona’s players (without the pads) and coaches on the field and socialize with great players from the past (such last spring when the former Wildcats celebrated Dick Tomey’s 75th birthday in Tucson). Who wouldn’t want to attend an autograph and photograph session with Nick Foles and Lance Briggs for example?

Simply put, if the head coach is not keen on intrasquad scrimmages, why is one (or an imitation of one) being held? Because two hours must be filled on the Pac-12 Networks?

If that is the case, make it a celebration of Arizona football with two hours of fanfare activities and tributes instead of a half-hearted attempt of a 70-play scrimmage with less than 10,000 in the stands. The Pac-12 Networks won’t go for that so the show must go on. publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.


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