Spring football: Does the season ever end?
On my way to Buffalo's spring football scrimmage last Saturday, I passed through a game that actually meant something.
It was a beautiful Saturday and the Buffalo softball and football teams were both playing; the football team at UB Stadium, the softball team at adjacent Nan Harvey Field. But there was one glaring difference: although the former played against itself, the softball team was competing for a possible championship title.
But no, I was on my way to cover UB football's Blue and White scrimmage. I had to help quench America's thirst for football just 119 days after Buffalo's bowl loss to San Diego State.
It wasn't even Easter yet. Even professionals have more time off.
The Mets had 145 days between their final game and reporting to spring training. The Knicks had 135 days. The Bills' season ended on Dec. 29 and they aren't even allowed to begin offseason training workout programs until April 21 - 113 days later.
Maybe college football players do need a union. There's no union representative in the country that would allow clients to return to work so early.
And don't get me wrong; this is not an attack against Buffalo Athletics. The fact is, nearly every big-time college football program in the country conducts spring practices and often a spring game, so UB would be senseless not to do the same.
I even saw a line in the team store inside Alumni Arena for the first time.
But this doesn't change the stupidity of the concept. It's time for a change and spring practices - especially in the brutal heat of the south - should be removed.
The allure of the spring game is the only way to justify forcing these student-athletes (I feel weird even using this term at this point) to take the football field in March. Yes, practice began in March.
How do you sell this concept to a town? How do you convince media members it's worth watching? How do you give the appearance to the parents of these young men that they aren't being exploited?
You toss out the word scrimmage. You invite ESPN. Spring games are heavily attended in the south, and I have to admit even Buffalo's had a decent turnout. It still doesn't mean it was appropriate.
In today's age where we are so concerned about head injuries and concussions, why are student-athletes hitting at full speed five months before the first game?
I understand organizing team activities. Seven-on-seven drills with quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends against defenses help to build timing and relationships. It makes sense to have players toss on shoulder pads and a helmet and run patterns.
Your starting running back getting laid out by your starting safety in the backfield doesn't.
And many universities don't even have the entire 2014 roster suiting up. Freshmen are still in high school and some are recovering from offseason injuries - like Buffalo sophomore quarterback Joe Licata.
Now that this spring game is behind us, the players have a "break." Until summer conditioning and then official practices return.
"[There's] never really an offseason," said sophomore quarterback Tony Daniel when I asked him a few weeks ago how his offseason was.
Actually, Mr. Daniel that's not true. There is an offseason. It's just shorter than in most professional sports.
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