College football, along with the professional game, is the most watched spectator sport in all of the United States as millions of fans tune in to games from August through the bowl season which ends in early January. But, what does the hardcore fan do while waiting for the college season to get underway again?
Well, spring football, which has been a tradition for many years, is becoming more and more popular among fans. At Alabama, 78,200 fans showed up for the annual A-Day spring game. More than 81,000 were on hand at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb., as the Nebraska Cornhuskers played their intrasquad scrimmage. More than one-fourth of the NCAA Division I programs are filling their stadiums for their annual spring scrimmages.
If that isn’t enough, networks like ESPN and the Big Ten Network, are televising many of these games. The Big Ten Network aired the spring football game of every team in the conference. Fans, it seems, just can’t get enough. Television ratings are up, attendance at the games is on the rise, and the rabid college football fan is appeased while he awaits the opening kickoff in late August.
With the success of college football and the demand for more of it, many colleges have turned their annual spring football games into large-scale events. Live bands, entertainment, and an array of contests are all associated with spring football games. At Arkansas State, the program auctioned off the rights to be the Red Wolves head coach for their spring game on eBay. The program generated some revenue for the program – the winning bid was $11,700 – and some notoriety as well.
The trend will most likely continue in the years to come. As former Texas sports information director Jones Ramsey used to say, “There are two sports in Texas: football and spring football.” That soon may become the norm for the entire U.S.