More programs should borrow this idea from Texas Tech
How do you get your players to treat a scrimmage like a game? By getting your fan base to treat a scrimmage like a game. And how do you do that? By moving it 120 miles off campus.
On Saturday, Texas Tech's football program packed up and left Lubbock for the roughly two-hour drive south to Midland, where more than 10,000 red-and-black supporters showed up to fill the local high school stadium. More than just a practice, this was an event, complete with the appearance of the Masked Rider and tailgaters. If you didn't know any better, you'd think it was a fall Saturday.
Saturday's scrimmage was a break of the spring ball monotony, a gesture of goodwill for Tech's Midland fan base and, most importantly, a wonderful day of brand management.
“Tech could do this all day in Lubbock,” said Texas Tech graduate Tim Culp told the Midland Reporter-Telegram. “But it’s a huge benefit to the Permian Basin and not just Midland and Odessa, but to Monahans, Andrews and Big Spring, and it draws a lot from the rest of the Permian Basin.”
For a school looking to establish itself as the state school of West Texas, the Red Raiders would be wise to hold similar days in important West Texas cities like Amarillo, Abilene and San Angelo.
And why shouldn't more programs do this? College football is a wonderful sport with a strange schedule. Thirteen games (if you're lucky) and nine months of off-season means passionate fan bases spend more than 90 percent of the calendar separated from the teams they love.
If Texas Tech can get 10,000 fans to watch practice in Midland, how many would show up to watch, say, Ole Miss in Memphis? Or Wisconsin in Milwaukee? Miami does a swell job of barnstorming its spring practices around south Florida but, outside of that, college football is missing a chance to sell itself to a willing audience.
Let the other teams on campus make your football program better
As iron sharpens iron, let your best programs on campus make your football program better.
That's what Michigan State does and, as we've previously documented, they're doing it better than anyone in college athletics. One of the last people Spartans basketball coach Tom Izzo spoke to on the bus to Madison Square Garden on Sunday? That would be none other than Spartans football coach Mark Dantonio.
Had Michigan State defeated Connecticut and advanced to the Final Four, Dantonio would have altered his spring practice plans to see the Spartans' basketball team play. Izzo took the basketball team to Indianapolis to see Dantonio's club beat Ohio State for the Big Ten championship in December. Four months later, Michigan State won the Big Ten basketball tournament four blocks away at Indianapolis' Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
When Michigan State outlasted Virginia in the Sweet 16 on Friday night, Izzo had this to say: "As my football coach says, you just stay the course, and we just kind of stayed the course."
When Dantonio opened spring practice with the obligatory pre-spring press conference, one of the first words out of his mouth was praise for Izzo and the Michigan State basketball team.
"When something happens in a game and they lose, like the Notre Dame situation, they'll get together,'' Michigan State athletics director Mark Hollis told MLive.com, "and one of them will have experienced something that the other hasn't. It's good to have that ability to go back and forth.''
Tosh Lupoi to reportedly join the Alabama staff
Word that began trickling out Friday finally hit the wire on Sunday night, as Jeremy Fowler of CBS Sports reported that former Cal and Washington assistant Tosh Lupoi will join the Alabama staff in an unspecified, off-the-field position. A move into the player personnel department feels like a natural fit, especially after Kevin Steele's transition to inside linebackers coach.
Lupoi, of course, has a reputation as one of the most aggressive recruiters on the West Coast. After finishing his playing career at Cal in 2005, Lupoi worked at Cal and Washington for half-a-dozen seasons before a six-week NCAA investigation - in which he was absolved of wrongdoing - left him without a job.
Enter Nick Saban.
Saban, who at 62 has to be entering the twilight of his career, has apparently decided to leave no stone unturned in recruiting. Alabama signed the nation's top recruiting class according to Rivals.com in 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013, but that success didn't stop Saban from hiring South Florida recruiting dynamo Mario Cristobal as offensive line coach in February 2013.
Coupled with Lane Kiffin's hiring in January, Lupoi would give Alabama another set of experienced eyes on the West Coast for a team that has now cast its recruiting nets well beyond the Southeast. In the freshly-signed 2014 recruiting class, for example, Alabama stretched beyond SEC country to sign offensive linemen from Iowa and Minnesota, a defensive lineman from Virginia, a wide receiver from Ohio, a punter from Colorado and a junior college offensive lineman from California.
If there are players to be found, Saban wants them. Lupoi helps with that.
Michigan State just misses out on a shot at history
Michigan State won the Rose Bowl. We know this. Mark Dantonio's Spartans rammed, battered, bullied, bruised and stonewalled their way to an 11-1 regular season, an upset of Ohio State for a spotless Big Ten record and a triumph over Stanford on New Year's Day, giving them their best season in a quarter-century and a No. 3 national ranking.
But it's what the Spartans almost did that is the focus of this piece.
Sunday's 60-54 loss to Connecticut in the East Regional final cost Michigan State not only their basketball season, but a chance to join a group of eight schools to reach a BCS game and the Final Four in the same academic year. With the BCS now extinct, the club is closed at seven:
1998-99 Ohio State - won the Sugar Bowl, lost in the Final Four
1999-00 Wisconsin - won the Rose Bowl, lost in the Final Four
2001-02 Maryland - lost the Orange Bowl, won the National Championship
2006-07 Florida - won the National Championship, won the National Championship
2007-08 Kansas - won the Orange Bowl, won the National Championship
2010-11 Connecticut - lost the Fiesta Bowl, won the National Championship
2012-13 Louisville - won the Sugar Bowl, won the National Championship
Had Tom Izzo's club captured a national championship of its own, Michigan State's 2013-14 football/basketball combination would have cemented itself as the second-best year in the BCS era, trailing only the dual championships won by Florida in 2006-07.
With the 10-team BCS now closed for business and replaced by the four-team College Football Playoff, the bar is now raised for any gridiron-hardwood high achievers.
The good news here for those in East Lansing, though, is that I can't imagine a better candidate to break that mold than Michigan State.
Video: Muhammad Ali is the soundtrack to this look at Indiana practice
We've posted hundreds of practice videos in the history of this site but none (that I can recall, at least) that standout like this look at a recent Indiana practice.
First, I love the underneath shot of two linemen going at it. Very creative.
And second, the greatest hits of Muhammad Ali put to music make this a very enjoyable 82 seconds.
Take a look at how East Carolina ran their Pro Day
Recruiting is, obviously, the birth canal of every college football career, but it's also the process by which a player leaves college ball for the NFL. At East Carolina, a school that isn't a Florida State, Alabama, Ohio State-level automatic stop on the Pro Day tour, player personnel director Brian Overton reaches out to his network of NFL scouts, inviting them to practice in the fall and then back for Pro Day in the spring. And it worked. Overton was happy to note that all 32 NFL teams had a representative in Greenville for the Pirates' Pro Day.
"If you want to win a Super Bowl," notes head coach Ruffin McNeill, "put a Pirate on your team." The last four Super Bowl champions had at least one former East Carolina player on their respective rosters.
Video: 'You've got to give up something to become a champion'
The video below is going a million different ways all at once. Just like the way Jerry Mack likes it.
Hired away from South Alabama, Mack was charged with changing the culture around a North Carolina Central program that went a disappointing 5-7 last season. His avenues to change have been sacrifice and attention to detail.
“The devil’s in the details,” Mack told the Durham (N.C.) Herald-Sun. “If we call a 3 o’clock meeting, the doors are locked at 3 o’clock.”
"Every day you've got to come out here and get a little bit better," says the video below. "Each day is a process. We've got to grow a little bit more as a team. Get a little bit better fundamentally, a little bit more disciplined every single day. That's the only way to become a champion. Every single time we take the field we have to take it with a passion...You've got to give up something to become a champion."
Photos: Construction updates on Houston's new stadium
Houston's new football stadium - creatively named Houston Football Stadium for the moment - is scheduled to open on August 30 as the Cougars host UTSA. That's 22 weeks from today.
On Friday, Houston posted a photo update of the progress on their new home. Let's just say there's some work left to be done in the 154 days between now and opening day.
And this is (an artistic rendering, of course) how the stadium will look on August 30: