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Friday, February 23, 2024
Four ways to make the spring scrimmage relevant
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Four ways to make the spring scrimmage relevant

There's a reason no one on campus goes to the spring game. It's boring. It's just a practice. The starters on offense go out and run over the second-team defense, then the defensive starters go out and shut down the second-team offense. Guys like Scott Tolzien, John Clay and Nick Toon will go out there and have huge days against inferior competition.

The quarterbacks are going to wear a red pinnie so no one can touch them and the coaching staff is going to run a vanilla scheme. Maybe people in Tuscaloosa or South Bend get excited to go out in the middle of the offseason and watch their teams scrimmage, but people in Madison aren't as obsessed and have better things to do. That is why, even though the scrimmage is free to attend, it still has putrid attendance numbers.

I believe the spring scrimmages will always be useless to fans, but the way the game is currently set up makes it especially unappealing to the public. While watching a team scrimmage is never particularly exciting, there are some methods that the athletic department  could employ to make this contest a little more relevant and exciting.

Bring in another school

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This idea is a long shot, but it would absolutely bring more attention to the spring game. The Badgers should work out a deal with a local Big Ten school, such as Minnesota, Iowa or even Northwestern. Then, Wisconsin and its opponent can alternate home venues.

This doesn't have to turn into a real game, it can be similar to the training camp scrimmage the Viking and Chiefs used to play in annually. Coaches could still use a basic playbook and quarterback could still wear that pinnie.

But obviously fans would rather see Wisconsin square off against another Big Ten foe than its second team, especially if it turned out to be rival Minnesota. And the players would naturally become more intense, as now at least some level of pride would be at stake facing another school rather than UW's back-ups.

I'm not sure what's preventing this from happening, I can't imagine Wisconsin is too worried about losing a home spring game every other year as I doubt it makes too much money. And instilling some healthy competition in the spring should only help Badger players.

Match up the squads

If Wisconsin won't play another school in the spring game, it should at least match up its starters with one another. Last year I covered the spring game and got sick of watching the first teams dominate the backups each and every possession, as they game got out of hand fairly quickly. I understand the Badgers want their starters to get used to playing with one another, so why not keep them together, but have them face the starters on the other side of the ball?

This would clearly make the game more competitive for the players and more exciting to watch for the fans. The second-teamers could still have their chance to play, they could just do it against each other as well. This way they're not getting embarrassed all day by the starters.

Spice up the play calling

I know the creedo of Wisconsin football since the stone age had been to pound the ball on the ground with a conservative offense, but it wouldn't hurt the Badgers to get a little loose out there with the playbook. Run some no-huddle, some spead offensive formations, maybe even some wildcat. And on defense try some complex blitzes—it's just a scrimmage after all. Wisconsin doesn't have to run this stuff in games, but why not have a little fun out there for the fans four months before the season starts?

Stakes

Give the fans some incentive to watch the game, or at least care about the outcome. It doesn't have to be a huge deal, but you could create a scenario in which, if the red team wins, juniors and seniors get a free shirt from the book store, and if the white team wins, freshmen and sophomores get it. The book store is always partnering up with athletics so a deal with them should be able to happen. Maybe this will attract a few more students to Camp Randall, or at least have people checking out the score.

Have any other ideas to improve the spring game, or do you think it's fine the way it is? E-mail Scott at kellogg2@wisc.edu.

 

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