Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Spread Offense: Why I Hate National Signing Day

By Pat Luhta, @PLuhta

National Signing Day has become a holiday it seems for the college football fan. It's the day where high school seniors can officially sign their letter of intent to the University of their choosing, locking them in with a scholarship.

2017's national signing day is right around the corner,  a full blown extravaganza that not only includes live commitments but analysis, breakdown, hits and misses, class rankings and everything else that could be talked about in an all day affair. Fans get a little bit of college football back as it takes a front page to most sports news(sans the Super Bowl), but while many fans are always looking forward to national signing day, I truly hate it for many reasons.

It may sound weird that I hate this day, February 1st this year, considering I'm an avid college football fan. It sounds even more weird when I admit that I follow recruiting as well and spend time talking with friends and fans about it. What's there to not like? College football gets discussed on a full scale map for 14-18 hours, practically the entire sports day consists of nothing but college football talk. Sounds great, right? That's actually one of the reasons that I loathe this day.

There's way too much exposure about this day, and so much unnecessary breakdowns and analysis of players and classes. It's part the sports networks fault, they've ramped up their coverage of national signing day a lot over the past few years. It's also the college football fans fault, without us then there isn't a market for that coverage. I know I'm going to come off sounding like a grumpy, old man here but these are still 17-18 year old high school seniors, the exposure of their (keyword) choice of school really shouldn't be a ratings grab. I don't blame the players at all for taking advantage of it and announcing their college decision live on national TV, many top ranked players have fun with this day and will have their high school band playing, some will pretend to pick a school to only spurn them and pick the actual school of their choice, we've even seen live music videos used as a way to announce their commitment. While they turn their commitment into a spectacle and bask in the spotlight, as most teenagers would, it sometimes ends up doing more harm than good.

That commitment doesn't just go away after the cameras turn off, that commitment sticks with them long into their college playing career. Some will be labeled divas or prima donnas for their over the top commitment, a player that is "all about me" and not a team guy that always wants the spotlight to be on him. And that label follows them into college, especially if they make a mistake on the field. Some fans and coaches will never forget how a player commits on signing day, and they (fans) will be very vocal about it when heckling them.

It's awesome to see a kid sign his commitment to a school and officially become a scholarship athlete, it's even more awesome to see the reactions of his family as they are at their proudest moment. The negativity that will eventually happen though just ruins it for me, knowing that their moment will be used against them.

I also have a dislike for the amount of analysis that goes into these players and the overall class. Again, both parties are at fault here because the fans drive the ratings, but the experts need to realize that the audience is influenced based on what they say. Claiming that a team should win a national championship within the next 3 years because of these players is just unreal expectations, but the fans hear it and see the star rankings of players and then the bar gets set. Some players will be under-ranked, some will be over-ranked, and putting the demand for a national championship in the fans' heads and putting pressure on players that aren't even on the team yet. Proclaiming huge expectations for players is a dangerous precedent, because no matter how good they may turn out, not reaching those expectations will result in being thought of as under performers or even failures. Then, years later the class will be looked at again and those "failures" actually turned out some great results and some players that were "disappointments" were actually some pretty good players, it just wasn't seen while they played due to some over the top expectations that everyone heard about on national signing day when they were still in high school.

In reality, no one knows how these players are going to turn out when they transition from high school to college, there are way too many variables that factor into it when it comes to them under or over performing their star ranking.

Ultimately though, the reason why I hate national signing day boils down for the way some fans act on this day. I'm fine with feeling the euphoria of landing a top recruit and being excited about their favorite schools' class, it's the opposite end of the spectrum that I cannot tolerate. Every fanbase has them, the fans that cross the line when a recruit doesn't pick their school or picks a rival school. I hate to break this to those, but a recruits decision on where he is going to school is his decision along with his families decision, and collectively they will make the best decision for him. No part of his decision rides on where some fan wants him to go, please remember that whenever a recruit makes a choice.

Here's what not to do when a recruit doesn't choose your favorite school, decommits from your favorite school or chooses a rival school. Don't throw personal insults at him or his family, do not say that he will be a bust or will end up getting kicked out of school, do not make claims about how he took money or any other bribes in order to go there,  and for the love of everything DO NOT WISH INJURY ON HIM. Doing any of the aforementioned things  makes you the lowest of low kind of person, and sadly this type of behavior has become frequent on this day especially with social media making recruits more accessible for fans to sound off on them. Instead, just wish the player well and move on, or better yet, don't say anything at all.

So while I will keep an eye on everything come signing day to see where recruits are officially headed, I'll be distancing myself from as much banter as possible. The overexposure of recruits and the deplorable actions of some fans has made this day way too over the top for me. A day initially about a celebration for recruits has turned into one big circus act, and it's an act that I wouldn't even attend for free.

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