Because of my unhealthy obsession with all things Boston College athletics, I have attended several spring games and will probably attend the spring game/not spring game/scrimmage-thing later this month. But I'll be honest and say that it's always struck me as a little strange that this is an event a large number of people are expected to go to and enjoy. To me, it's a lot like the people who go to Ft. Myers to watch pitchers and catchers warm up before any spring training games are even played. I certainly don't begrudge people if that's how they get their jollies, but it doesn't really strike me as anything that should have much large mass appeal. It's usually pretty boring, honestly. I enjoy the day out at the stadium, but you don't learn all that much about the team or the players as you're only seeing a portion of the playbook and the game isn't really at full speed.
Judging by the attendance at the Spring Game annually, it's fair to say that most BC fans would agree. For various reasons that have been discussed repeatedly here and elsewhere, getting enough interest in the spring game to make it a real event and a promotional tool will always be a challenge, not least of which is because the base of season ticket holders and committed fans you're drawing from is pretty small compared to Big State U's elsewhere in the country.
So it ultimately probably comes as no surprise that BC is reworking their spring practice schedule and not having a traditional "spring game," instead opening the doors of Alumni for an open practice in March. The officially stated reason for the change is "to help the team better prepare for the 2015 season." Reading between the lines as well as doing some digging suggests that 1) playing a Spring Game in April means a portion of the team's limited spring practice time is wasted by disruptions caused by the Easter holiday; 2) the current health and depth of the offensive line may make it challenging to field two "teams" for a formal spring game.
I don't want to speak for all BC fans, but I feel like most fans would probably be on board with anything that helps the team prepare. But I also think they probably don't care if it's "maroon vs. gold" with two formal teams, or "offense vs. defense" like this new scrimmage is going to be. What does bother some BC fans is the idea of killing off the spring game as an "event." I have not heard confirmation or details from BC as to whether or not there will be a full "game day" environment with the scoreboards, P.A. system, etc.—I am guessing there probably won't be, and the bubble might even still be up when the time comes.
The ancillary events surrounding the game—Family Fun Day, as it's usually called—are probably all scrapped as well, though, again, we have not received any confirmation of this. This has led to speculation that maybe BC felt like holding these events were more expense and trouble than they're worth given the size of the crowd that shows up.
The main question to me here is if there's any way BC can re-work the spring schedule in such a way that does make sense for the school and for the fanbase.
My thought is this: realistically, the spring game has mostly appealed to two groups at BC: 1) the small group of weirdos like us who care so much about BC that the opportunity to watch the team scrimmage is worth making the trip. This will always be a small group, but these are your most loyal and dedicated fans. 2) People who take out their kids either to enjoy the "family fun day" activities.
For group #1, there's no reason why an open scrimmage in March can't serve the same purpose as a spring game. But in future years, BC should consider sweetening the deal a bit to give hardcore fans the kind of access they crave. Maybe follow up the scrimmage with a Q&A in Yawkey or in Conte with a coordinator, or maybe some of the team captains; give people a chance to interact with the staff and talk about the season ahead. To be clear: I don't expect anything like this will inspire huge numbers to turn out, but it would be a nice treat and reward for the diehards.
For group #2, it would be great if BC could re-institute "family fun day," but maybe have it in May when the weather is nicer. Invite some players, cheerleaders, and Baldwin to make an appearance, sign autographs, take pictures with kids, etc. Have a big barbecue, carnival rides, cotton candy, and all that good stuff—and have friendly, dedicated folks in tents there to sell people on mini-plans and season tickets.
To me, this would be the best way to repurpose the spring game concept in a way that best suits Boston College's needs as well as the needs of the fanbase. Even a perennially ranked BC team will never draw huge interest in the spring game, but branching off the marketing/outreach portion of it and making it its own event could help fill the void left behind if the traditional Spring Game is going to be off the schedule in years ahead.
What do you think?