News from the Tennessee Valley Sports


Auburn hurts athletic program playing weaklings

AUBURN — Ball State came down to Auburn and promptly lost 63-3.

Auburn shelled out half a million bucks to get the easy win and that's a shame.

There are always three reasons listed as to why the big boys play the JV teams.

Reason 1 is that it's almost always a sure win.

Reason 2 is that it's one more home game, good for some money at the gate.

Reason 3 is that it's a good chance to get young players experience.

While the third reason is quite legit, the first two are anything but.

Sure, 78,427 fans made their way into Jordan-Hare Stadium, but the legendary Auburn structure was anything but noisy Saturday and it wasn't full.

Heck, from the press box, the right angle would have given someone the perfect suntan from the glare.

No one wants to see Auburn play Ball State, Western Kentucky or The Juilliard School for Dance, Drama and Music.

It was the guess of several reporters in the press box that while the announced crowd was slightly fewer than 79,000 people, the real figure probably dropped closer to 65,000 or 70,000 folks in the stands.

This isn't a knock on Auburn fans, who can get as loud as any in the Southeastern Conference.

Instead, it's a criticism of the system that is the big brothers of college football.

Nine times out of 10, fans are going to witness a drubbing like Auburn's 60-point win Saturday.

Who wants to pay $33 for a ticket, and then have to spend $3 an item on food and drink to watch that kind of game?

Chew on this — Auburn sold out its game against Georgia Tech to open this season. The Tigers played in front of a sold-out crowd in 2003 against Southern California.

The better the opponent, the better the crowd.

Now, it's understandable to play one minor school in a season, be it the opener or homecoming.

But two is too many and three is borderline insane. And it doesn't help in the polls. Hint, hint. Look at last year for Auburn.

On to point No. 2, which in a way can be directly related No. 1.

Schools play these ridiculous home contests for gate money.


Doesn't a sold-out stadium equal a bigger gate than a three-quarters-filled stadium?

By all math taught from grade school to college, yes it does.

In a year when 12 regular-season games are allowed, it's possible an extra game against a lowly opponent could help the coffers.

When everyone is playing 11 games, it's not exactly extra money. So, and try to follow this line of thinking, if Auburn continues to play Ball States and Western Kentuckys and Citadels and Louisiana-Monroes, it will continue to see an attendance roughly equal to Saturday's, or less than 80,000.

That's less money than, say, a sold-out stadium for a game against Michigan or Ohio State would bring in.

However, there is one positive and that has to do with reasoning No. 3.

The great things about these games are the experience factor. Players can only practice against their teammates so many times before the repetitions become monotonous and meaningless.

Game play allows for so much more learning.

And the only way for backups like Merrill Johnson, Chris Evans, Blake Field and Prechae Rodriguez is to play weaker opponents.

Saturday, against Ball State, Johnson led the team in tackles from his linebacker spot. Evans saw game action and registered one tackle.

Field, for the first time in his career, was able to throw against an opponent that wasn't familiar with Auburn's plays. And Rodriguez ranked second on the team in receptions with three for 39 yards.

That, however, seems to stand as the overriding reason to play these games. As long as big schools keep winning and getting players on the field, it'll be rare that fans get to see a matchups like Ohio State and Texas, Auburn and Georgia Tech, and Alabama and Oklahoma.

Bradley Handwerger Bradley Handwerger
DAILY Sports Writer

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