MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — College football spring games have changed in recent years. The adaptation of streaming services and live television to broadcast programs’ final practice of the spring has made coaches around the country leery.
“Coaches, in general, are paranoid. So, they get paranoid about the TV deal, which I do understand,” Neal Brown said Saturday.
Multiple teams, for one reason or another, have canceled their spring games this year. New Big 12 team Houston nixed its spring game due to weather, while fellow Big 12 addition BYU canceled its due to field renovations.
West Virginia is not canceling its annual public scrimmage to end the spring. But Brown is unsure of exactly what the day will look like.
“I’m going to work on that tomorrow,” Brown said when asked about the format on Saturday.
The fifth-year head coach started working on his plans Sunday, but those plans likely won’t come together or become finalized until Monday at the earliest.
“I left the staff meeting this morning, and before we went to position meetings, I said, ‘OK, you all have a day. One day. When we come back together on Monday morning, I want all your ideas for [the] spring game,'” Brown said.
West Virginia’s head coach and coaching staff will try to strike a balance. The balance they want to find lies somewhere between being entertaining and not giving too much away about the team.
The exact format of Saturday’s spring game is unknown, but Brown knows some of the elements he wants to have for fans, or at least what he would want to see if he was attending.
He wants to see some sort of on-field competition, which could be between individual players, position groups, or the whole team. He also expects to have “some things that are interactive with some kids,” though he did not expand on what those would be. The third element Brown would want to see is, as he put it, some real football.
“Now, we’re not going to go out there and play four quarters of real football,” Brown added.
WVU’s first spring game under Brown in 2019 was closer to four quarters of real football. The Mountaineers have moved away from that format since. Most recently, the spring game has been a select number series of game-like action with competition drills sprinkled in the day.
Brown said he and West Virginia will try to make the day fun for everyone involved. But he is keenly aware of how many eyes can be on his team on the day of the Gold-Blue Spring Game, and in the months to follow.
“Everybody has access to them. So, everybody that we play at the early part of the year, the first thing they’re going to do is pull out what we did in the spring game,” added Brown. “So, from a coaching perspective, you always got to think about that.”
The 2023 Gold-Blue Spring Game is set for Saturday, April 22, at 1 p.m. at Milan Puskar Stadium. Information on the game can be found here. Proceeds from the game will once again benefit WVU Medicine Children’s.
West Virginia will conduct spring practices Nos. 13 and 14 on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively. The Gold-Blue Spring Game marks WVU’s final organized practice of the spring schedule.