No matter your views on the year-round spectacle that college football recruiting has become, no day in any sport quite compares to the specific about of ridiculous the first Wednesday in February has become. In just a few recent years, the coverage of college football’s National Signing Day has gone from simply listing a school’s commitments at the end of the day to wall-to-wall coverage from dawn to dusk comparing classes, needs and just how favorably and loosely a cornerback’s hips are.
If nothing else, I’ve come to consider myself not a recruiting expert, but rather a Signing Day expert of sorts. It’s a long day, but I’m here to help you cut through anything important and relevant in order to devote all of your focus on the absurd. I won't pretend like I know where any unsigned recruit's going sign, so on we go!
The default decision mechanism has become picking between hats, but recently, we’ve seen helmets, Skype announcements and, in the case of Isaiah Crowell’s all-important Georgia decision, puppy accompaniment. The smart money says that, as recruits get more and more attention during the recruiting process, the more creative and self-satisfying the announcement ceremony becomes.
What does this mean?
Expect the following to happen, if not this year, soon:
- Announcement via Twitter.
- Announcement via Friendster (from the older Weinke or Weeden types)
- Hiring a lookalike of your future head coach to descend down a rope in the prospect’s high school auditorium. (What? We know of at least the Tressel lookalike...)
- Announcement via train station flash mob. I assume this means singing the fight song or, in the case of an LSU announcement, a coordinated effort to do that weird palm clap Les Miles is prone to.
- Announcement via terrible self-released song or mixtape. I’m under the impression that there are mini-recording studios built into iPhones and iPads—never underestimate a heralded recruit’s desire to hear his own voice in a way that he believes makes him a renaissance man. (I can’t wait for this.)
The Studio Hosts
ESPNU and the CBS Sports Channel, in previous years, have broadcast an hour-long Signing Day special that generally runs the better part of the work day, with hosts and analysts picking apart and ranking classes, interviewing prominent college football head coaches and letting high school prospects make their live announcements either in-studio or via satellite.
It’s an exhaustive undertaking for both viewer and host alike, but know this, generally the viewer has an opportunity to use the facilities when he or she pleases…not so much with the hosts.
All this should mean to you is now you have the opportunity to figure out which host or analyst is the most uncomfortable around hour four. Generally, the giveaway is an on-air personality trying to wrap up whatever story they’re talking about to get to commercial, or it’s the guy who openly starts talking about his bladder in a joking way that really isn’t a joke at all. For simplicity’s sake, let’s just assume the latter will be ESPNU’s Dari Nowkah, because Luginbill has probably been training his body for weeks to suppress all basic human needs.
The family members standing behind a recruit as he makes his announcement probably are the most heartwarming parts of Signing Day, as we get insight into not just the family dynamic at the end of a stressful process, but we also get to see exactly how happy or disappointed parents are, who’s particularly excited to be on camera and how awkward 17-year-olds get when they’re in the same building as a TV camera, their friends, classmates and parents at the same time.
It can become a study of uncomfortableness, and I love every second of it.
Finally, as the sun sets on Signing Day, only one group of people is more tired of recruiting than the studio hosts and viewers—the recruiters themselves. Lucky for us, the coaches, despite going on TV to give generic platitudes like “We really think we have a special class!” or “We’re quite pleased with the kids we brought in!” they are still, in a strange way, fascinating to watch and imagine them as humans with real personalities. And yes, we all know that the assistants are doing the majority of the legwork, but it’s still fun in its own little way to watch college football coaches try to feign enthusiasm about the process of inflating the egos of teenagers who happen to be built in otherworldly ways.
Then again, it could just be their lookalikes.