The Times West Virginian

August 24, 2009

FURFARI COLUMN - Preseason scrimmages would benefit teams

By Mickey Furfari

MORGANTOWN — The National Collegiate Athletic Association, known to one and all simply as the NCAA, ought to wake up.

It should permit member institutions to better prepare their football teams. This could be done by permitting preseason scrimmages against an opponent school or two.

Rich Rodriguez has been among Division I-A football coaches who firmly believe that this is needed to turn out stronger teams.

He’s pointed that out annually, as have other coaches. But the NCAA has yet to consider seriously such a move.

Yet that organization permits basketball teams to play two preseason scrimmages against outsiders each year. Surely that helps those become stronger.

Why not football?

Even the nation’s high schools are allowed to scrimmage against each other in football before a season’s start.

Why not colleges?

Although retired, Don Nehlen still thinks it’s a great idea. He’s a former president of the College Football Coaches Association.

The Hall of Famer thinks the NCAA probably fears permitting school vs. school preseason scrimmages might be abused by some.

Ironically, making an outside scrimmage a part of preparation for the regular season would not be a first.

I remember seeing West Virginia scrimmage the Quantico Marines in camp at Jackson’s Mill in the 1950s.

“They had a lot of college players, and they were really good,” recalls Fred Wyant, then the Mountaineers’ starting quarterback. “Boy, were they tough.”

Wyant said the starters battled on fairly even terms. But Quantico claimed an edge in No. 2 vs. No. 2 and No. 3 vs. No 3 skirmishing.

“I believe that helped make us a better team,” Wyant said.

College football deserves more consideration and stronger support. It’s become a bigger business than ever.

I can remember when the WVU athletic budget was $9 million. Now it’s more than $40 million annually.

And football is the chief money maker. It pretty much provides financial support for most of the other sports.

Depriving football of an opportunity to produce stronger teams continues to be baffling to me.

The NCAA should be ashamed. It just doesn’t make sense in this matter.