A Lighter Shade of Garnet: Analyzing SEC Spring Game Attendance Figures

Apr 14, 2012; Columbia, SC, USA South Carolina Gamecocks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney reacts to head basketball coach Frank Martin destroying the now defunct videoboard.

The spring game: an anti-climactic dog-and-pony show that serves as an off-season sniff of the upcoming year. It's no different from a real game, except players don't really play if they're remotely injured, or if they're an important player, or if they're in the game. Basically, it's "Hey, look, the players you cheer for! Wearing pads and helmets and stuff! They're going to run some half-plays for a while. Just keep grilling and we'll let you know if anything worthwhile happens." Indeed, the spring game offers no real conclusions, since it's a zero-sum game. If your offense thrives, it's because your defense sucks. And vice versa. This isn't necessarily true, but every spring game review tosses that disclaimer in somewhere along the line.

The point is, you can't put too much stock into spring game performances. Remember last year when Jimmy Legree and DeAngelo Smith had huge spring game showings? Didn't exactly translate to All-SEC seasons. But I don't aim to be a total killjoy here. I love the spring game. It's a treat for the fans, and a good recruiting tool, too. Southeastern Conference schools in particular have made the spring game into something of a spectacle, so I that I took the liberty of analyzing SEC spring attendance figures. For each SEC school, I list the following:

  • Announced attendance
  • A few words about that team
  • An accompanying song lyric from junkyard-folk legend and occasional character actor Tom Waits that is loosely referential at best. Why? Because it's as absurd and entertaining as the spring games themselves.

We soldier on alphabetically, beginning with Alabama, after the jump...

School: Alabama

Location: "YOU ALREADY KNOW. Tuscaloosa, ALABAMA TITLETOWN ROLL DAMN TIDE!" /holds up Tide-logo gloves and nods confidently

Spring Game Attendance: 78,526

Numbers potentially inflated by Tide fans claiming Bryant-Denny as a legal residence. Still, an impressive tally that proves once again that there's nothing to do in Alabama other than watch football. However, attendance fell by almost 14,000 from last year. What's to blame? The economy? Title hangover? Saban's newfound practice of firing buckshot at walk-ons to assert dominance? I suppose it's not for us to know.

Tom Waits lyric: "The captain is a one-armed dwarf / he's throwing dice along the wharf / in the land of the blind / the one-eyed man is king." -- Singapore

•••••

School: Arkansas

Location: Little Rock--no, Fayetteville. Wait, is it Little Rock? I don't... Anyway, how 'bout Petrino?

Spring Game Attendance: 45,250

The feelgood story of spring game season was Arky's impressive showing mere days after the news broke of Petrino's joyride. There's no therapy quite like a fake football game, amirite? Now the healing has begun, via the controlled slide of a hire that is John L. Smith. Arkansas' offense may spend a few weeks resembling a vibrating electronic football game, but at least their coach isn't a jackass.

Tom Waits lyric: "Drag that chain across the state / Her lips are red / she is the queen / she's such a scream." -- Such a Scream

•••••

School: Auburn

Location: THE PLAINS SON.

Spring Game Attendance: 43,427

Auburn's opening against Clemson and is finally off our schedule, so we at GABA endorse any preseason hype the Tiger Eagles may garner. I assume Gene Chizik recruited spring game attendees by placing a hand on their shoulder, maintaining eye contact and offering heartfelt overtures about their importance to the program while slyly tucking a few Bennies in they wasteband, y'all! Wait, it's 2012--are "Auburn pays for stuff" jokes over? No? Splendid.

Tom Waits lyric: "Sometimes the music from the dance / carries across the plains / the places that I'm dreaming of / do they dream only of me?" -- Whistle Down the Wind

•••••

School: Florida

Location: Gainesvull

Spring Game Attendance: 38,100

A hobbled Gator program could make a splash in 2012. Gators faithful saw some inspiring quarterback play from Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett, both of whom struggled to find their feet in 2011. John Brantley also struggled to find his feet, although there's a decidedly more literal undertone in his case. Head coach Will Muschamp was pleased with his team's showing, as evidenced by the relatively low number of graduate assistants he suplexed during the day's events.

Tom Waits lyric: "Pretend that you owe me nothing / and all the world is green / we can bring back the old days again." -- All The World Is Green

•••••

School: Georgia

Location: Twixt The Hedges

Spring Game Attendance: 44,117 ("Suck it, Florida." -- Some bro.)

UGA's football team is getting tons of hype. No, "hype" isn't a new upper-drug you can make from OTC allergy meds, but the palpable sense of excitement for the Dawgs 2012 season. The spring game (G-DAY!) was highlighted by running back play and Mark and Katharyn Richt entering day 133 of their celebratory french kiss.

Tom Waits lyric: "I want to believe that our love's a mystery / I want to believe our love's a sin." -- Kiss Me

•••••

School: Kentucky

Location: Lexington, KY

Spring Game Attendance: 4,500. That is not a typo.

"Dear Wildcat Alumni, We hope this e-mail finds you well. This is to announce a special BASKETBALL MEETING to be held Saturday, April 20, 2013 at Commonwealth Stadium. That is the large stadium-like building on University Drive. I stress that it is a BASKETBALL MEETING of the highest importance. Why is it not taking place at Rupp Arena? We think the fresh air will be nice, that's all. As we will likely be celebrating our 2012-2013 National Championship win, we've contracted an interpretive dance troupe clad in pads and helmets to reenact our tournament run. Please plan on attending this basketball meeting which is STRICTLY ABOUT BASKETBALL WE PROMISE. Signed, J. Phillips J. Calipari"

Tom Waits Lyric: "The train smokes down the xylophone / there'll be no stopping here." -- Town With No Cheer

•••••

School: LSU

Location: Red Stick, LA

Spring Game Attendance: 33,000

A relatively low turnout for a powerhouse, although extra credit is awarded because there's never less than 33,000 people in Death Valley, either. Ever. The fan-favorite tradition of the head groundskeeper pulling Les Miles by the legs at a high speed like some sort of Flintstones lawnmower was the day's high point. After consuming nearly 70 pounds of Celebration Bermuda, Les chuckled and said, "It's a living!"

Tom Waits lyric: "Things are now made of me / The weather vane will say... / It smells like rain today." -- Green Grass

•••••

School: Ole Miss

Location: Oxfordtown, MS

Spring Game Attendance: 25,000

You have to give it to the Rebels. Times are lean for the once-mighty Ole Miss, but the fans still love them some football. Which is why the spring game turnout was surprising, since there's been no trace of Ole Miss football in Oxford for a few years now.

Tom Waits lyric: "A little trouble makes it worth the going / And a little rain never hurt no one." -- A Little Rain

•••••

School: Mississippi St.

Location: Starkville, MS

Spring Game Attendance: 22,604

[write-up overwhelmed by cowbell clatter]

[SEC penalizes Miss St.]

[More cowbell clatter]

Tom Waits lyric: "The train that took my baby / it went clang boom and steam." - Clang Boom Steam

•••••

School: South Carolina

Location: "Columbia, South Carolina: Famously Hot!" (paid for by Columbia Department of Tourism)

Spring Game Attendance: 34,513

On the heels of our best season in history, we brought out a fairly sizable crowd. Not unlike his nipples at a hot spring practice, HBC's giddiness could not be contained. New basketball coach Frank Martin made his first appearance at the Brice, and has since abetted the videoboard replacement process by scaling the north stands and ripping the old board out of its pilings. Thanks Coach! As joyful and exciting an event as it was, it just didn't feel like a South Carolina spring game without Stephen Garcia being suspended for it.

Tom Waits lyric: "I got hair on my chest / I look good without a shirt!" -- Goin' Out West

•••••

School: Tennessee

Location: Knoxvull, TN

Spring Game Attendance: 35, 421

In 2009, the Vols pulled in over 50,000 fans. But since 2010, the number has hovered right around 35,000. I don't know exactly how this is Lane Kiffin's fault, but let's just agree that it is. Highlights of the spring game included a dog, a guy in orange pants, and Tyler Bray's tattoo, which is a highlight of pretty much anything ever. All 35,000 attendees drove home in silence.

Tom Waits lyric: "Beggin' on the freeway's bout as hard as it gets." -- Cold Water

•••••

School: Vanderbilt

Location: Nashvegas.

Spring Game Attendance: 8,500

This is excusable. Why? See "location". Remember what I said about there being nothing to do in Alabama except watch football? This is not the case in Nashville, people. Still, James Franklin wants everyone to know that there's plenty of room on the Vanderbilt bandwagon, which has plush leather seats and is a hybrid. That's fine with us, as long as it doesn't crank up until week 2.

Tom Waits lyric: "I fell in love with your sailor's mouth and your wounded eyes." -- Who Are You

•••••

You'll note I didn't include our new friends Mizzou and Texas A&M. IT JUST DOESN'T FEEL RIGHT YET. But if you're wondering, they totally didn't draw which is sort of surprising. At least A&M was precise (15,000 on the nose!) We're a few months away from the 2012 season, and only then will we be able to confirm that these spring attendance figures don't tell us anything we don't already know.

Have a nice summer, everyone!

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