MADISON, Wis. — Practice 12.
That’s what Wisconsin football coach Paul Chryst would have called the Badgers spring game had it taken place as scheduled this Friday night at Camp Randall Stadium. Yes, the word “game” is attached to the annual event. But Chryst, never one for much pomp and circumstance, has treated the game more as a glorified practice and teaching tool in years past than anything else.
That’s no knock on the way Chryst has done things. He is 34-7 in three seasons at Wisconsin and has led the Badgers to bowl victories on all three occasions. Rather, it is more an illustration of how Wisconsin’s spring game is viewed. Starters rarely play significant snaps. The scoring system is difficult to follow. And the two-hour session is primarily a showcase for fans to see players who may not see the field next season.
Wisconsin school officials announced Tuesday that the spring game scheduled for this Friday night had been cancelled because of weather concerns. There is a strong chance of heavy rain and thunderstorms, and safety was the biggest priority in making the decision. The announcement came one day after Iowa State canceled its spring game because of poor weather conditions.
While the Wisconsin cancellation may disappoint some fans that were ready for the trek to Camp Randall Stadium, there will be no seismic outcry. At Wisconsin, the spring game is not the type of event that stirs the masses and draws a crowd — and it never has been.
Last year, the announced spring game attendance at Wisconsin was 8,095. Juxtapose that with numbers last year at Ohio State (80,134), Nebraska (78,312), Penn State (71,000 estimated) and Michigan (57,418) and there really is no comparison. Badgers fans, who have plenty to do around Madison in the spring, are more than happy to wait until the fall to pack Camp Randall.
Wisconsin’s spring game last year featured a convoluted scoring system in which 20-yard gains, three consecutive first downs, three-and-outs and missed field goals were each worth 1 point. It resembled little of what we saw when the season began. The offense didn’t use quarterback Alex Hornibrook, receiver Jazz Peavy, tight end Troy Fumagalli, left tackle Michael Deiter and right guard Beau Benzschawel. Running back Jonathan Taylor, a Doak Walker Award finalist, wasn’t even on campus yet for his freshman season.
It was doubtful that Hornibrook, as well as most of the starting offensive linemen and wide receivers, would have played this year. Several more offensive and defensive starters likely also were preparing to be spectators Friday.
The good news for Chryst and Wisconsin is that the spring practice schedule won’t skip a beat. The Badgers still will practice Friday night inside the McClain Center, as they have done all spring. As far as Chryst is concerned, Practice 12 will go on without a hitch.