COLUMN: MSU football ends spring with no hype, no anticipation going into summer
In a way, there were a number of familiar sights on April 1 at Spartan Stadium.
There was the MSU football team, donning the green and white fans are accustomed to.
There was redshirt-sophomore quarterback Brian Lewerke lined up under center and taking first-team snaps. That’s a norm Spartan fans should get used to, as head coach Mark Dantonio called him “the guy.”
Then there were a number of young players, forcing the Spartan faithful to remember their name. The beneficiary of the spotlight graced sophomore wide receiver Trishton Jackson, who tallied eight catches for 168 yards.
Yes, spring football was finally upon us. For the first time since an embarrassing 3-9 season, the Spartans were on full display.
In the handful of hours leading up to the game, everything seemed normal. Fans could be seen tailgating as thousands flocked to East Lansing, eager for one final look at the Spartans before the warmth of summer envelops them.
Amid an alleged sexual assault involving three players and a staff member, though, the circumstances surrounding the team are not normal, and should not be ignored.
Looking further upon that lush green field plastered with the Spartan logo, the minuscule cracks in the armor could be seen.
In 2016, the spring scrimmage drew an estimated 51,000 fans. For a game with no real consequences or results, that’s a staggering number no matter how it’s framed.
Sure, those Spartans were coming off a Big Ten championship and an appearance in the College Football Playoff. It’s easier to ride the bandwagon than stick through the tough times.
But this year? The crowd was just a shade under half of 2016, MSU announcing about 25,000 in attendance.
The players on the field were different, too. The State News has already stated it will not add speculation to identify the three players under investigation.
Natural turnover, however, is a reality. Seniors graduate, then the underclassmen come in to fill their spots. That’s one of the many givens for a college football team.
As summer conditioning creeps closer, it’ll roll over into the fall before we know it, the meat and potatoes of college football’s never-ending cycle.
However, there will be little to no hype, no excitement surrounding the Spartans.
No, not this year, not in 2017.
That isn’t to say there won’t be any anticipation once MSU kicks off a new season.
The team and its fans will be eager to turn over a new leaf and officially claim 2016 as the past, instead of the daunting shadow it currently casts.
Compare it to the past three years, though, and the vibes surrounding the team will be a shell of its former self.
It’s a shame, too. All of that momentum MSU had garnered through a dominant stretch has hit a standstill, waiting for a tide to swing it one way or another.
Now, there will be an air of skepticism around the Spartans. While the memories of a dominant MSU are fresh, the gaffs of 2016 are a much fresher wound yearning to be treated.
Spring football, all things considered, is an odd spectacle. As it progresses, the weather gets warmer compared to the bitter cold Spartans fans reminisce from a late November game.
It also comes just mere months after bowl season. The Spartans, of course, failed to make their first postseason game in Dantonio’s time representing the green and white.
For all of its faults, its primary objective is to bring a crisp, rejuvenated look into the new season.
The Spartans were already heading into spring with an identity crisis, and that was before news broke of the alleged sexual assault on Feb. 9.
Now, the future is murkier than ever under Dantonio.
The investigations surrounding the team will eventually conclude after a tumultuous period with little to no media contact. From there, it’s all up to Dantonio and his staff.
Luckily for MSU and its fans, there is one constant. College football works within a cycle, and the fall will be here soon enough.
The Spartans will find themselves on the field again, kicking off against another opponent. They’ll have the opportunity to right the ship, as nothing helps a program’s tough stretch like winning.
They’ll just have to do so without a positive, protruding buzz around East Lansing, one hyping up the football team come the impending autumn.