Who cares about spring football? The usual suspects, according to nifty graph put together by the boys at Big Red Network:
Kind thanks to them for allowing us to use their snazzy image: check out the rest of the article at Big Red Network on pain of having Tommy Frazier run you over like so many Florida defenders, blood clots in his legs and all.
Enlightening to us is the overall pattern mattering most in spring games: hope. We knew it mattered, but if a program feels particularly hopeful, the best way to see it isn't in the panegyrics local scribes spit out every time a new coach rolls into town. It's in the attendance leap from the prior year's spring game. (Fans in East Lansing must really, really be vibing off Mark Dantonio.)
It's also a rough approximation of the value of a head coach to a program. The spring game costs nothing, means effectively nothing, and reveals little about a team. It's a fluffy event with little driving it besides the need to see something, anything football-esque in the void of the offseason combined with the desire for a rollicking good sunburn to break in your hide pre-beach season.
The only thing a spring game brings with it is buzz--pure jejune hype about a team's projected potential hypothetical goodness/badness going into the season. And if you've got someone at the helm who can make something out of nothing, or god forbid force the groundskeepers to close the doors at capacity for a scrimmage, you've got someone who by sheer talent and shine brought them there to park on the lawns, purchase eighty dollars worth of gas, and roll down to what is essentially a non-event.
That's a stellar indicator of a coach's value to a program: the one based solely on his reputation as a program manager capable of making what was good become great. Judging from the bottom of the attendance list, hope in that department does not spring in Champaign-Urbana, "excitment" and "getting better and better" be damned. Illinoise had "several thousand" fans at their spring scrimmage in Chicago, estimated at more like 500 by the Big Red guys.