April represents the culmination of spring practice, ending with the fans’ last chance to enjoy football before its four-month hibernation – the Spring Game. A tradition among programs nationwide, the Spring Game is the crown jewel of spring practices, pitting the offense and defense against each other in front of an audience that breathes life into the new season.
Beyond the fan perspective, though, lays a more dynamic result of the Spring Game – its economic impact. The spring finale can bring significant audiences to a central location, which can stimulate a local economy. In 2013, more than 1.3 million fans flocked to stadiums just for spring games. These fans need places to stay, places to eat and things to do before or after the game. Businesses benefit from a school’s commitment to the game, but so does the school.
While many schools offer free admission to the Spring Game, some of the nation’s top programs charge an admission fee. Auburn, which drew the nation’s largest crowd last April, will charge a $5 admission fee this year. If Auburn can draw just half of last April’s crowd, the university’s athletic department stands to make more than $200,000. Nebraska, which annually brings in a large crowd (last year boasting more than 60,000 fans), charges as much as $15 per ticket, while Ohio State spring game tickets are selling for as much as $20.
With such a large economic impact, Oklahoma State’s decision not to host a spring game becomes curious. Instead, OSU has opted to host the Orange Blitz, a 90- minute practice consisting of “position work, one-on-one drills and team periods” followed immediately with an autograph session on the field. Only two other programs in power conferences will not have spring games. Pitt will also host a final spring practice while Texas A&M will not be hosting anything due to stadium renovations.
Oklahoma State’s spring game rarely draws large crowds already, despite often falling on the same weekend as the annual Remember the Ten activities. Last season, OSU drew only 15,000 fans. This year, OSU’s spring finale could see a significant drop in attendance. The event will not be paired with the charity run, and hasn’t built much excitement in fans. After years of commitment to spring games, a final practice seems like a letdown to fans who had been excited to see quarterbacks J.W. Walsh and Mason Rudolph go head-to-head.
Oklahoma State has been a program on the rise the past few seasons. Gundy brought the first Big 12 championship to Stillwater in 2011, and was one game away from bringing it back for the second time in three seasons. The decision not to host the spring game represents a move in the wrong direction, and it could cost in the end.
A drop in attendance can have a dreadful result on the economics of the spring game. Without fans flocking to town to watch the team, businesses lose out on customers it would otherwise have. The athletic department can use success from the previous season and excitement around the spring game to launch season ticket sales. Without the spring game, the excitement the previous season built begins to fade and ticket sales drop.
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