National signing day brings out the best in high school athletes, but it can also bring out the worst in angry fans and alumni.
As Mississippi native and 4-star DE Chris Jones prepares to make his decision between Ole Miss and Mississippi State, he is receiving death threats about picking the wrong school of the two. Jones has verbally committed to the Bulldogs, but it appears his final choice won't be announced until the Feb. 6 national signing day.
This latest development in his recruiting cycle is not only damning for all parties involved, but it also shows just how competitive college football recruiting (and sports, for that matter) has become.
According to an ESPN report by Kipp Adams ("Insider" access required), both schools have been badgering the top recruit to play for their school—and some have taken it entirely too far. Here's what Jones had to say to ESPN:
It was a crazy weekend. I received death threats, insane messages, you name it. I mean it has not been as stressful as people would think it has been. I have tried to handle it in the most comfortable way possible, so it has really been alright for me, and in the end, I am very blessed to have this opportunity to play for either in-state school.
Jones reportedly has his mind made up after the weekend whirlwind that was visiting both schools, but that likely won't stop these same people from attacking him when the ink is on the paper on Wednesday.
It's now the nature of the recruiting process.
Two other recruits, No. 1 overall prospect Robert Nkemdiche and Ricky Seals-Jones, both received death threats this year, specifically after they decommitted from their first choice (h/t Chantel Jennings of ESPN):
Top overall prospect Robert Nkemdiche (Loganville, Ga./Grayson) received everything from hate mail to death threats following his decommitment from Clemson in November. So did Ricky Seals-Jones (Sealy, Texas/Sealy) when he chose to part ways with Texas in June.
"When I decommitted, it was crazy," Seals-Jones told ESPN.com in July. "I got death threats on Twitter. A couple cars in my neighborhood we didn't know would drive by the house real slow. I live in the country, so the cars that do drive by, you know who's in them. I guess for some people, it's that serious."
This may sound out of the ordinary, completely ridiculous and downright appalling to some (which it should), but the recruiting process has evolved to include both social media and fans that feel it's their responsibility to help recruit an athlete to their school.
Or in this case, put a squeeze on the kid if he doesn't come.
B/R's own Adam Kramer wrote a strong piece on this issue on Monday, calling for the end of this kind of behavior from fans and imploring people to follow the age-old adage: If you don't have anything nice to say, just don't say anything.
Kramer's sentiments respect the fact that this is the most informative period for college football of all time. Fans can join chat boards, check websites like this one for updates and be about as involved as the coaching staff when it comes to firsthand knowledge.
Andrew Bone of Yahoo! Sports sent out this tweet when he heard the news about Jones' death threats, imploring that fans really think before pressing "enter" on their keyboards to attack a college recruit:
Have to feel for a guy like Five-star DE Chris Jones. Doesn't do anything to anybody, but gets death threats from fans. Grow up people.— Andrew Bone (@AndrewJBone) February 4, 2013
Unfortunately, this type of attitude and behavior doesn't just apply to college football fans. San Francisco 49ers fans did much of the same to punt returner Kyle Williams last season (h/t ESPN) when he had two miscues that were partially to blame for the New York Giants overcoming the Niners and getting into Super Bowl XLVI.
Add in the countless fights outside the stadiums of NFL, NBA and MLB games, and this attitude seems to be prevalent well past just college football.
It's an epidemic of the sport right now and something that needs to be fixed. It's easy for fans to hide behind a keyboard and computer screen when there's no threat of repercussion or punishment for over-the-line comments, and with advances in technology, there doesn't seem to be an end in sight.
Personal pleas, just like the one Adam Kramer sent out yesterday, are all that's left. This name bashing and threatening attitude is now a part of college football's recruiting process, whether we want to admit it or not.
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for B/R's Breaking News Team. Check him out on Twitter.