National Signing Day: Worth the Hype?


Forget Christmas in July, how about Christmas in February? At least that’s what it feels like to many college football fans as they patiently wait every year for the first Wednesday in February to see the big bold print, “National Signing Day”, line on the top of ESPN.

Over the past few years the popularity of National Signing Day has grown immensely with the help of the national sports media. It almost seems as though this day has become one of the most important days in college football, gaining more attention than many of the bowl games played at the end of the season.

Media from every sports network all over the country gather around the 5 star recruits and their families to see what school they have decided to attend to continue their football careers.
This is a huge day in these young athletes’ lives, not only for them, but for their families, coaches, and teammates as well. Gradually though, we see this becoming an even bigger day for the media and fans.

You cannot tune into any type of sports media on this day without seeing coverage of high school athletes signing papers. In fact this year ESPNU strictly showed coverage of National Signing Day the entire day.

The real question that needs to be answered here is if this coverage is actually worth it.
Fans spend the entire day glued to sports media websites and broadcasts to celebrate the signing of players who have yet to prove themselves at the collegiate level.

The analysts on ESPN put together rankings for the top recruiting classes every year based on the amount of top recruits the teams sign throughout the day. This all seems like a good way to analyze the up and coming players and their teams; until you take a look back at some of the top recruiting classes in the past few years and see that many of them really amounted to nothing.

A perfect example of this would be the Tennessee Volunteer football program. Year in and year out the program signs top recruits from all over the nation and land their recruiting class in the top 20 and many times the top 10, yet they still come up with negative results ending each season as an unranked team. You can imagine the heartbreak that the Volunteer faithful go through at the end of each season after listening to all the hype that circulates around National Signing Day and their great recruiting classes.

Fans get all caught up in the hype of National Signing Day and start to believe whatever the sports reporters are telling them. In the end, sometimes it all works out and the player may turn out to be one of the greats of the game for instance Cam Newton, a 5 star QB recruit who led his team to a National Championship in 2011 also winning the Heisman Trophy in the same year and now has begun what is looking like a promising career in the NFL.

Unfortunately though, more times than not the case is more similar to players like Dayne Crist and Garrett Gilbert. Both prospects were 5 star QB’s at the top of their recruiting classes who were hyped up by the media to be the next big star of college football and did not make it. In fact, both of these players lost their job as the starting QB before their season even ended.

Don’t get me wrong, I, like many college football fans, love to see the new recruits who are signing to play with my favorite teams. The media on National Signing Day just takes it to the next level, telling fans to watch out for so and so players to take over the game and become the best in the nation without ever really seeing them play.

The media could make this day just as special just by showing the players who they are signing to play with, then waiting until the season comes to let the players’ performance talk for themselves.

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About The Richard A. Maxwell Sport Media Project

The Richard A. Maxwell Sport Media Project is a hub for teaching, research, and service related to sport media. The Project benefits students and faculty at Bowling Green State University, and offers outreach and media consulting to area and regional groups that work with student-athletes. Through collaborative efforts of the Sport Management program and the School of Media and Communication, BGSU students have the opportunity to learn such skills as sports writing, reporting, broadcasting, announcing, public relations, media relations, communication management and production. Faculty and other scholars have access to resources about the commercial and sociological aspects of sport.

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