CLEMSON — The other night, I caught a replay of Miami’s spring football game.
It was, shall we say, less than scintillating.
The Hurricanes committed five turnovers. The lone touchdown? A Mike James five-yard run with 4:19 to play, lifting Orange to a 7-6 victory over Green.
Miami announced the crowd who bothered to show up at Sun Life Stadium at 10,000, but judging by what I saw on TV, halving that number would’ve been generous.
It looked like a typical Thursday afternoon crowd for the stadium’s former tenant, the Miami Marlins.
Who could blame the fine people of south Florida if they found something better to do on a Saturday afternoon?
Spring football games are, by nature, boring. Coaches’ paranoia and the knowledge that games will be televised and replayed all summer leave them with an utter lack of imagination and intensity.
Compared to Miami’s game, Clemson’s Orange and White game was Super Bowl XXIII (the 49ers’ famous 20-16 win over the Bengals, also played at Sun Life Stadium).
Chandler Catanzaro’s 46-yard field goal lifted Orange to a 23-20 “double overtime” victory over White while only a smattering of the 28,000 announced by Clemson watched.
It wasn’t necessarily well-played, and at times it was populated by anonymous walk-ons who won’t see the field outside of the fourth quarter against Furman.
But the end was compelling. When regulation ended 20-20, Swinney gathered his captains at midfield and announced a field goal competition, with Catanzaro facing off against backup Ammon Lakip.
It took imagination not to just call a tie and end the afternoon after regulation.
If Swinney’s latest idea is implemented, spring could get the pizazz it so badly lacks.
Earlier this month, he suggested that the NCAA allow programs to finish spring against a team in their area.
Imagine how much buzz a Clemson-Georgia spring scrimmage would generate. Or a Clemson-Tennessee faceoff. Or South Carolina-Georgia Tech. Or South Carolina-Florida State. You get the idea.
Charge $10 a head, donate the proceeds to the school’s general fund (a badly-needed boost in this era of state budget cuts) and make quarterbacks off limits.
Fans could spend all summer breaking down how Sammy Watkins looked against the Bulldogs’ cornerbacks or obsessing about how a rebuilt offensive line held up against the Dawgs’ defensive line.
Sure beats trying to glean meaning from an roster split down the middle for a yawn-inducing scrimmage.
Are there concerns about injuries? Sure. But injuries can happen anytime, anyplace.
Just ask reserve quarterback Tony McNeal. On the last play of regulation, McNeal scrambled backwards and fell awkwardly to the turf for a 10-yard loss.
He tore his ACL on the play and will miss the 2012 season.
Is it distressing? Yes, but the rules and protections of spring didn’t help McNeal one bit.
Scrimmages with nothing on the line are nothing new.
During the NFL preseason, teams make a habit of visiting opposing training camps for scrimmages open to the public.
Every preseason, college basketball teams trade visits for closed scrimmages – Clemson and Georgia, in fact, are frequent partners.
Spring football is the South’s third most-popular sport behind college football and college football recruiting.
Why not give the fans a reason to care even more? Swinney’s idea makes perfect sense.