When you go to the Southeastern Conference’s official website, the first thing you see is this:
Except that “every” comes with an asterisk. “13 of the 14 SEC football teams elected to play a spring game this year.”
Guess who that 1 that didn’t elect to play a spring game was? Yep, Vanderbilt.
Only... this is all about semantics. Vanderbilt will be holding a “spring showcase” on March 25, which is the last practice of the spring, open to the public, and will include Vanderbilt’s first-team offense scrimmaging its first-team defense. That sounds an awful lot like a “spring game.”
But because Derek Mason isn’t dividing his team up into two squads, a “black” squad and a “gold” squad, it’s not a “spring game,” and the people who run college football have decided that they have a policy of only televising “spring games,” defined as “a glorified practice, but one where you divide your team into two different squads and have them compete with each other, except with goofy, made-up scoring rules that make this not even real football.”*
From Joe Rexrode’s column, Mason certainly has valid reasons for not holding such a game. Last year, Mason mentioned that he essentially didn’t want to lose two of his team’s allotted 15 spring practices (one for the spring game, and another one preparing for the spring game.) This year, Mason claims he doesn’t have the numbers on his roster and has several players banged up.
But whatever reasoning that ESPN and the SEC Network comes up with is, frankly, horseshit. The other 13 schools are having their last practice of the spring televised because, basically, they decided to hold a formal “spring game.” The rules that these “games” are played under vary so widely that it’s hard to say that there’s any rhyme or reason to what ESPN considers a spring game and what it doesn’t. I watched some of the SEC’s spring games last year and I’m fairly sure Arkansas’s televised spring game actually was a practice. Granted, they had to go indoors because of the weather and couldn’t play the spring game... but ESPN’s cameras certainly didn’t stop rolling.
Aside from all this, just what the hell better does the SEC Network have to televise on March 25, anyway? Odds are that while Vanderbilt’s “spring showcase” is going on, the SEC Network will just be running Paul Finebaum. Or possibly Dari Nowkhah talking to the camera. There is, frankly, no legitimate reason that Vanderbilt’s spring showcase will not be televised.
*The author may or may not have made up this ESPN policy, but would you even know the difference?