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Why spring football has taken root
Marketing helps push national trend, and state schools are no exception

By Jake Trotter Modified: April 12, 2008 at 12:32 am •  Published: April 12, 2008
NORMAN — If University of Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson had his way, today's 1 p.m. Red-White spring game would be followed by a Toby Keith concert, with the stage in the end zone.

"If Toby came out afterward and sang four or five songs, we'd fill it up,” Wilson said. "That would be awesome.”

Wilson's vision of the Red-White spring game isn't that farfetched.

Across college football, spring games are no longer just glorified scrimmages.

These days, universities are pushing to make them events. It's true here, too.

In Stillwater, country music singer and Oklahoma State alum Keith Anderson will perform tonight at Gallagher-Iba Arena following the 4 p.m. Orange-White game, which last year brought in an estimated 15,000 fans.

How times have changed
Just six years ago, almost no one saw the OSU spring game after Cowboy coach Les Miles moved the time from 7 p.m. to 1:30 because of weather without notifying anyone.

Now, OSU has one of best-attended spring games in the country.

OU, which drew more than 21,000 to the Red-White game last spring, has joined in the marketing movement.

The Sooners auctioned off the chance to call an offensive play on the coaching headsets during today's game to Shae Farmer of Carrollton, Ga., for $2,900.

"I know everyone is expecting something crazy, but I'll actually try to make an educated call,” said Farmer, who before this weekend had never been to Oklahoma. "Then again (for $2,900) you kind of feel like you have to go for it with a fly pattern or something like that.”

The Bedlam universities aren't alone in their desire of making spring games an event.

This year, a New York entertainment producer planned to attract 1 million people to 16 college campuses with hopes of making more than $15 million with big-name concerts and pep rallies on the eves before spring games.

Tickets for the "Gridiron Bash” were going for more than $40 and included musical acts ranging from Kelly Clarkson at Iowa and Fergie at Penn State to the Counting Crows at Colorado and the Goo Goo Dolls at Kansas State.

The Bash was canned last month in fear that football players participating in profitable shows would lead to NCAA violations.

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