Preseason Coverage
Builds Excitement

by Billy Weaver

The 2005 college football season is just around the corner and fans in the south have an insatiable appetite for the best sport on the planet. I have always believed that notion but my suspicion was confirmed earlier this week as I watched a University of Tennessee pre-season practice from the comfort of my living room.

Yes, the Tennessee Volunteers welcomed ESPN camera crews to their morning workout at Haslem Field. To my knowledge it was the first time a pre-season practice was aired on national television. No, not a scrimmage game, the morning session of a two-a-day workout. At first I found myself laughing at the choice of programing by ESPN but being the true southern football fan I am, after just a few minutes I was absolutely hooked.

It was amazing! ESPN put a wireless microphone on head coach Philip Fulmer as well as a number of his assistant coaches. ESPN football analyst Mark May was on the field at times actually running with receivers and defensive backs during their workouts. Sure, the practice seemed a little tame and I never even heard a coach really raise his voice let along throw out an f-bomb. Anyone who's ever been around a college football practice field knows that four letter words usually fly around more often than Bobby Bowden says Dag Gummit!

Even Bowden has to be envious of Fulmer right now. Wouldn't you be? Just imagine the recruiting advantage Tennessee now has over other "Name Brand" schools. Hi, I'm Phillip Fulmer. Play for me and your friends will even get to see you practice on television.

So you say this is a "one time thing." ESPN can't plan to show more pre-season nonsense. I don't think so. In fact, I think there's much more to come. You may remember that the precedent was set on April 16th of this year when the University of South Carolina's spring football game was aired nationally on ESPN2. Heck, only 38,806 fans showed up to Williams-Brice Stadium to watch the game in person. I just hope that sometime in the near future East Carolina can draw that many fans to every regular season game let alone a scrimmage game.

Which brings me to my next point. To help get butts in the stands, you must get fans excited about your product. ECU football practices should be open to the public. I know most coaches hate the thought of knucklehead fans hanging around the practice field but in this age of information it's essential. As of right now, members of the media are allowed to photograph only the first 30 minutes of practices. This means most of what you see on local news is a lot of very big guys stretching and warming up in purple outfits. Not very interesting. The same policy is in place for the scrimmage games at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

Obviously you have internet access since your reading this article so there's a great chance you have also noticed a towel hanging over the "Pirate Cam" during any workout held at the home of the Pirates. Granted there are days and situations that the towel is very necessary and times when fans and members of the media should not be allowed in the practice facilities but for the most part it just doesn't make sense.

I can take a short trip to Spartanburg, South Carolina and take in a full Carolina Panthers practice on any given day. Trust me, with the parity involved in the NFL, teams need every advantage they can get. Closing practices to the media and fans would keep a lot of things under wraps. However, the NFL eventually profits from the extended media coverage and fan excitement generated through training camp.

The bottom line is that every little bit of exposure your football program gets is a major plus! And after two consecutive horrible seasons on the gridiron, ECU should do everything possible to generate more publicity.

Billy Weaver