As we have known for a significant time, Florida State is unable to host its annual Garnet and Gold game at Doak Campbell Stadium this year due to the offseason construction currently occurring inside the stadium. This situation caused the Seminoles to find a new location outside of Tallahassee to play their annual spring game with them eventually settling on the Citrus Bowl in Orlando as the host site.
Although at first observation this could be construed as an issue for a Florida State team that must add an unusual spring trip and play the game in an environment in which many of the players have never played, head coach Jimbo Fisher has made a point to acknowledge some of the benefits that this unique opportunity provides.
"I think it's gonna give us an opportunity to play in the stadium we're gonna open up with," Fisher stated in his press conference before the beginning of spring practice. "And it gets some of the fans from South and Central Florida that maybe don't always get to the spring game a chance to come up and see us."
Fisher is right on the mark with regard to both potential upsides. After all, Florida State begins the 2016 season against the Ole Miss Rebels in the very same stadium that they will be occupying on Saturday for the spring game. This weekend's trip will serve as a serviceable preview for the trek to Orlando this team will be making come September and presents the chance for the Seminoles to play an intrasquad scrimmage in the neutral-site stadium before they take part in a regular season game in the venue later this year.
This may be most substantial for this year's class of early enrollees. In most years, these players would not take part in a trip with the team before the following regular season. However, this year's satellite spring game allows them to experience what will happen and what is expected of them when traveling with the team.
Although the rest of the team has traveled before and know what goes into a game trip, this year's spring game on the road could keep the routine fresh for more experienced players entering their fourth or even fifth spring game. Fisher shared similar sentiments on Wednesday, saying, "Sometimes when you are in a different venue, it makes you focus differently and kind of gets a little more excitement in the game."
The other positive Fisher brought up, the rare chance for FSU fans from all over the state to watch a spring game in person, has already been proven valid. As of Tuesday, 34,000 tickets had been sold for this year's spring game, surpassing more than half of the Citrus Bowl's 64,000 capacity before late preorders and walk-up ticket purchases have been accounted for.
The aforementioned 34,000 tickets purchased through preorders is nearly double the announced attendance of 17, 250 from the Seminoles' 2015 spring game and nearing the 36,500 people who came to see FSU's 2014 spring game which came just months after the program's third national championship.
These numbers go a long way toward proving Fisher's point of Orlando providing a more-centralized location for the spring game, making a trip to the game much easier, particularly for fans in Southern Florida.
The larger crowd at this year's game also helps to create an atmosphere more akin to that which the players will encounter on a regular gameday.
"It's the one time you get to see these guys walk out there and, all of a sudden, it's not the practice field and the stands are full," Fisher recently shared. "It's just another time to put them in an atmosphere and environment that they can get used to because we are always going to play in big crowds."
In another promising update, Florida State discovered earlier this week that they will be able to host recruits on the sideline at Saturday's game, receiving special permission from the NCAA to do so.
"I will be able to talk and interact just I like do [at home games]," Fisher relayed on Wednesday. "They don't get to see your facilities but the way we got it set up, I can meet with [the recruits] and their families and do that."
This recent development turns what could have been one of the downsides of a distant spring game into a new opportunity to move closer to recruits located in other parts of the state, increasing the likelihood of those recruits traveling to take a visit this weekend.
These positive aspects are more than enough evidence to justify that this year's necessary spring game away from home looks to be a great success, all things considered. The final verdict must wait until after the game when reviewing the situation but, at this point, it's difficult to find a way in which the spring game on the road is causing harm to the team or program.