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By not streaming spring game, Syracuse football is missing the point

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Yes, there’s self-interest here. But no, I’m far from the only person affected.

NCAA Football: Louisville at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Spring football doesn’t matter in the larger scheme of things, I’ll admit. Yes, the Syracuse Orange (like all teams) has been breaking in some new players since March and there’s value in onboarding everyone into larger roles. That’s all valuable, and doesn’t really require the presence of fans or even media to occur — though it’s nice to give media a glimpse, since fans do indeed care about these things.

But one of the important benefits of spring football is getting people excited/energized about the team’s upcoming season. Not by doing anything all that thrilling during a scrimmage, but just by having one at all. If you’re a rebuilding program offering tickets and parking for free, this is especially important. Fans just want a glimpse of what’s to come, to remind them that the season kicks off this fall and to buy tickets.

All of those dynamics are largely centered around local fans, though; especially for a 7 p.m. Friday night kickoff. SU should be catering to those fans, obviously, since they’re the lifeblood of its ticket holder base. Still, Syracuse is also a private school with alumni spread across the country. Tuning out everyone outside of the 315 area code would be a puzzling move. Of course, that’s what was just revealed today...

All of that after it had originally been said that the game would be streamed.

Why would anyone — especially a university housing the No. 1 communications school in the country — do this?

Syracuse.com’s Nate Mink took a stab at figuring out the reasoning in the thread below that tweet, mentioning factors like tickets sales and engagement, the No Huddle Tour covering other nearby area codes where out-of-town season ticket holders could still be, and this only being an hour-long event.

All of these things are true. And yes, as Nate states, there will be media coverage of the event anyway (Adam’s on-site for us at the Dome tonight).

But because the spring game doesn’t really matter, that’s exactly why this little fact of streaming the spring game or not does matter for out-of-towners. Most importantly, there’s literally no downside to doing it.

Looking at the big picture, season ticket sales are clearly what’s most important for Syracuse football right now. And it should be. We’re all tired of hearing about the empty Dome every Saturday, and the gate receipts and resulting concessions are income for the school. Out-of-towners don’t really provide much on that front. And the ones that do largely live in the No Huddle Tour footprint.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

But even knowing what I do about this specific community here at TNIAAM, I know it’s not that simple to boil down this fan base to locals and adjacent area codes. Those many be the ones that sell tickets, sure. Beyond them, though, are the WAY out-of-town fans like myself and many of you that travel to games, will buy bowl tickets and merchandise, and just want to see and talk more about the team.

Media coverage may appear (even here) afterward, but it’s not the same as SEEING what you’re supposed to be getting more excited about, and that’s where Syracuse is missing the point here. You’re actively telling fans in Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Florida, Texas, etc. that their support doesn’t matter as much because they’re not buying season tickets.

We’re not Ohio State or Florida or Texas or Oklahoma. A large portion of our fan base is in CNY, though plenty of it lives elsewhere. Support for the program comes in all different shapes and sizes and forms. Not making an easy stream available (as they have in the past) for fans just seems to narrow the focus down to one specific “type” of support. Do we really have the ability to pigeon-hole ourselves like this yet?

I have no clue who made the decision on Syracuse’s end, so no use pointing fingers. And who truly knows how much cancelling the live stream impacts the greater, non-local fan base’s excitement level and desire to spend money on the program. Still, with the opportunity to use the ACC Network Extra infrastructure already in place, plus some Newhouse kids and maybe even some help from a notable alum who’s already in town for the Syracuse lacrosse game this weekend... it’s just such a small ask to put this thing online that not doing so is far more damaging than doing so.

I’ll still be following along on Twitter tonight, and we’ll still have a recap. But I’m admittedly bummed, and I know many of you are as well. Hopefully we go back to streaming next year once the ACC Network is just about ready to launch.