Will’s World: Say yes to the hat on Signing Day

Benjamin Franklin once said, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” What does this have to do with my article? Absolutely nothing.

But we are approaching a day in sports that is unlike any other in the world. It is among the biggest, if not the biggest, day in intercollegiate athletics. “But Will,” you say, “Surely the biggest day in the non-controversial universe of amateur intercollegiate athletics would be the day that student-athletes graduate to pursue careers of intellectual and monetary enrichment.” In the perfect world, perhaps. However, as “adult” football fans, we are not too separated from the child who on Christmas Day marvels over their newfound loot of gifts and presents, only to immediately cast them aside and watch television (Disclaimer: I do not in any way associate college football recruits with children’s toys). For the alumni, and sports writers, who need a post-season football fix, that ever-important day is the concocted unofficial holiday known as National Signing Day (NSD).

For those who are unaware, National Signing Day is the day where the biggest high school recruits choose the school for which they will play. Well, actually all high school recruits sign to a school this day, but for the purposes of this article, or rambling, we’ll stick to the big ticket blue-chip prospects. (Disclaimer: I do not in any way associate college football recruits with the color blue). For college football, by far the most widely publicized National Signing Day in the country, that day almost always occurs on the first Wednesday in February.

Students will choose their schools, usually by donning their school’s hat, in televised press conferences, sports writers will predict a bright future for schools who sign the best recruits, and at the same time lament how NSD is an example of all that is wrong with college sports. Sometimes I wonder if they have a point. After all, ESPN has a webpage dedicated to recruiting, updated with the latest news on which school a kid may pick, which school they’re visiting over a weekend, and what they’re eating for lunch.  Okay, I made that last one up, but mark my words it’s only a matter of time.

I’m waiting for the day when I turn on the TV and watch a college football analyst report, “After searching through his garbage, contracting hantavirus and narrowly avoiding the clutches of death, I found that five-star tight end John Doe recently bought a carton of Ben and Jerry’s cookie dough ice cream. This tells me he’s bulking up to play in Wisconsin’s pro-style offense. Hail Satan.” (Disclaimer: I do not in any way associate college football recruiting writers and experts with Satan, the Antichrist, or Velma from Scooby-Doo).

Something bizarre will usually happen. At least once a year a parent will refuse to sign their child’s letter of intent to play for a certain school. One player once admitted he chose Rutgers over West Virginia by flipping a coin. One year a kid held a press conference to announce that he chose to play for the California over Oregon. Turned out those schools never offered him a scholarship, he simply wanted the attention.

What makes the media hype and coverage around NSD all the more bizarre is the fact that recruiting can be a crap shoot. It’s true there is some correlation between recruiting classes and on the field success, and that recruits with higher rankings, from one to five stars, have typically fared better. However, more often than not some of the highly touted prospects who are given national attention simply don’t pan out, or at the very least fail to meet the ridiculously high expectations placed upon them.

Let’s look at ESPN’s top five recruits from the class of 2010. From one to five they were Ronald Powell, Jackson Jeffcoat, Dominique Easley, Jordan Hicks and Michael Dyer, who committed to Florida, Texas, Florida, Texas and Auburn respectively. Heard of them? I doubt it. Of these five, only one, Easley, was chosen in the first round of the NFL draft. Of these five, only one had an impact for the national championship, Michael Dyer, his freshman year. Dyer went on to have a bizarre college career where he was released from Auburn, released from Arkansas State before he played a down, found a home in Louisville, only to be ruled academically ineligible for his team’s bowl game.

But, as stated before, a Christmas-like festivity arises when recruits ink their name on paper and commit to play for their university. Fans and alumni will read about their newly-signed and newly-anointed favorite players, and imagine if the class before them may be the class to finally bring their team glory. Then they forget about it, pay their taxes, watch Project Runway, ponder the Spanish Inquisition and start reading up on the upcoming recruiting class and the prospects it offers.

You may say now, “Will, surely by your attitude stated here, you are above such frivolities.” My answer is blunt — nope. I’m constantly, and borderline religiously, checking Colter Nuanez’s Montana State Football Recruiting page for the latest hot news on MSU’s player commitments and prospects. More will be reported for the following week’s issue on MSU’s upcoming recruiting class, by me.

Perhaps I should find a new hobby. Maybe I’ll fly kites in lightning storms to make observations about electrical current —worked well for someone, though I can’t remember his name.