Bowl games are glorified exhibitions that usually take place in warm, attractive locales. They are thought by many to be a reward for the players. The team gets to travel to a tourist friendly destination and has all kinds of activities the week of the game to do. The players get presents from the game’s sponsors. It’s supposed to be a nice time. That’s the theory anyway.
In practice bowl games are a little different. The presents and excursions are there, but many coaches view those as a distraction from game preparation. After all those games do matter; they affect the win loss record and final standings. The bowl game is no longer the best opportunity to reward the players in a fun environment. Thanks to Jim Harbaugh spring practice is.
Harbaugh has recently made news for deciding to host a week of spring practices in Florida. The reason for the location is simple: recruiting. Harbaugh wants to have his program in front of the important recruiting state of Florida. It’s smart, and he’s the first one to do it. Others, of course don’t like it. The SEC and ACC, two conferences who automatically have Florida exposure have voiced displeasure. Harbaugh has responded, recently on twitter.
He’s right. Other sports teams go places, why not the football team. But instead of just going to Florida for a few days, what if schools decided to use the opportunity to pamper their players? Rather than just going to sunny, scenic Bradenton, why not go somewhere more exotic? This is how spring football should be done.
The Caribbean. Why not fly the team down to the Bahamas for the last week of spring practice? Split time evenly between being on the field and being on the beach. The Bahamas doesn’t produce as much football talent as Florida does, but how many players would like to sign up for a yearly sojourn to the islands?
Europe. Why not take the team on tour, like an old school grand tour in Europe. Some schools have plenty of money. Spend that on charter flights to London. Have a practice or two there and stop by to see the Queen. Take the train to Paris. Spend some time there and have a practice. Head down to Rome for the last practice. The Coliseum isn’t in condition to host a spring game right now, but I’m sure there are some boosters who would like to help finance the revival of the Flavian amphitheater.
Asia. This might be a nice option for the Pac-12 schools who want to cultivate the Asian market. Fly, in a luxurious charter flight of course, to Tokyo. Tour the city between some well timed practices. Hop over to China for some more “practice”. Use the Great Wall for conditioning.
If the NCAA doesn’t clamp down, which they probably will, Jim Harbaugh has just scratched the surface. If a school is willing to spend the money on accommodations and first class travel, imagine the experience they could give to their students (and use to recruit).