Today is the first day that high school seniors can officially sign letters of intent to play college football. Because the recruiting game begins so early these days and verbal commitments are really meaningless in this cutthroat business, coaches and fans have to hold their breath and wait for fax machines around the country to start churning out NLI’s.
But Signing Day is merely the culmination of a ridiculous process known as college football recruiting. This process often begins when the students in question are still in middle school, way before coaches are allowed to officially recruit players but early enough for athletes to start singling themselves out amongst the nation’s elite. From that point forward, a prized recruit’s life is filled with endless texts, calls, mailings, tweets and Facebook messages from coaches desperately trying to land a premiere recruiting class.
LeBron James caught a lot of flack for his hour-long “The Decision” special, and rightfully so. But LeBron just did what high profile recruits have been doing for a while. For some reason, several years ago, some genius decided it was necessary for 17 and 18 year old kids to go on national television and announce where they would be attending college in long, drawn out press conferences. It is hard to deny that this makes for great television- the intense drama of which hat will end up on the head of the recruit. The joyous family surrounding him. The incredible ability to turn a rather simple process into an hour long event. It really is quite the spectacle.
Let’s take a close look at this hallmark of Signing Day – the announcement press conference.
Recruits often make their decisions public days or weeks before they can officially commit, but Signing Day is when press conference mania really hits its high point. Sometimes these take place at a high school gym or auditorium. Often the recruits come directly into the television studio to announce their fate to the nation. Many of these kids have spent the past few years being told how great they are, so why do we need press conferences to further confirm this supposed greatness? And then there are the hats – it’s not enough to simply state which school you have chosen, you have to put on a hat! Which begs the question, what happens to the hats that don’t get picked?
This is all very silly and unnecessary, and just adds to the pressure these kids are facing when they enter school. I understand that this is a special moment for the players and their families – it’s an incredibly important decision that could drastically affect their professional futures. But these are still just high school students who are at least seven months away from playing their first snaps of college football.
I think it’s time we take a step back and realize that this has all gotten a bit out of hand. There is no need to build these players up so early and give them so much attention before they have graduated high school. If they are good enough, there will be plenty to celebrate in seasons to come.