Harty: Ferentz should bring back the spring game
Some of you in the I’m-fed-up crowd might not believe this, but every decision Kirk Ferentz makes concerning the Iowa football team, he does so with the intent to get better.
That’s why he stopped having a spring game a while ago because Ferentz must have felt that staging an open practice instead would be more beneficial for his team in the long run.
I remember being surprised by the decision because not having a spring game seemed pretty extreme at the time and still does now.
It’s hard to argue with Ferentz’s decision during times of success because what’s the point? It’s only a spring game. And why change something that works in the fall?
That’s why I’m bringing it up now with Iowa struggling to get back on track under Ferentz, its 19-19 record over the past three seasons evidence of that.
Now is a good time to bring back the annual spring game because fans need a spark.
Playing a spring game wouldn’t necessarily make the team any better next fall, but it would make Saturday’s viewing experience at Kinnick Stadium more enjoyable for the fans. It would provide some drama that only a game could bring.
Nothing against practice, but watching players perform drills and taking part in a short scrimmage falls short of the real thing.
As for the concern about injuries, the quarterbacks, of course, would be untouchable. Injuries also happen in practice when there is no tackling, not just in games.
Nobody was more paranoid about injuries than former Iowa coach Hayden Fry, and yet he still played a spring game.
It’s, obviously, too late to change anything about Saturday’s format, so start planning for next spring. Make the final day of spring practice an event again by playing a game that matches the starters versus the reserves.
Put the two coordinators in charge of both teams and have a game with kickoffs, punts and some creative play calling. And if you want to make it more competitive, give the reserves a 17-point lead and let the starters play catch up.
Or you could follow Michigan State’s example by assembling the teams through a draft.
The seniors for Saturday’s kickoff at Spartan Stadium were divided into Green and White teams before the draft. Sophomore guard Brian Allen was taken first by the White team. Allen was on hand wearing a suit and tie and joined head coach Mark Dantonio at the podium, holding up a No. 1 Spartans jersey much like what happens at the NFL draft.
The way Michigan State does it is fun for the players, coaches and fans. The game actually means something.
It doesn’t make sense anymore for Iowa to have just a practice when so many other teams are sending their fans into the offseason with a celebratory spring game.
It’s fun for fans to see players emerge during a spring game. It doesn’t guarantee success in the fall, but it gives fans hope.
I’m not delusional in thinking that Iowa’s spring game would ever rival the spring extravaganzas played at schools like Nebraska, Ohio State, Alabama and Michigan where having over 50,000 fans is common.
But it would be more entertaining than having one final open practice. And right now, the Iowa fans deserve to be entertained.
Driving two or three hours to watch a spring game seems far more inviting than driving that same distance to watch practice.
And it doesn’t have to be just a spring game. Make the whole day as close to the real thing as possible. Allow fans to tailgate under the same rules as the fall because it would only be for one day in April.
Iowa football needs all the help it can get right now and re-establishing the spring game would be a nice boost.