Some sports columnists and other critics were outraged by the amount of coverage devoted to college football recruiting on national signing day, nine hours on two networks that amounted to more time than even the Super Bowl preview commanded.
Well, recruiting is football's second season and people--athletes, family, friends, coaches and fans--love to watch. Aside from the exhausting shows on ESPNU and CBS College Sports, the Big 10, SEC and other major conferences conducted their own television shows. In the South, they are as popular as grits and gravy and southern fried chicken.
Fans can't get enough of recruiting, like the NFL draft. Did you know that the NFL draft with Mel Kiper Jr. is one of ESPN's biggest money-makers? The Big 10 needs to sponsor a recruiting show on a year-round basis and I'm sure it's ratings would skyrocket. Check the college Websites. Recruiting is the No. 1 topic.
Kids are starting to understand what recruiting is all about. They're not about to let the college coaches have all the fun. The networks seek to stir up as much drama as they can--which hat are you going to pick?--and they spread out the announcements to keep fans from USC or LSU or Notre Dame or Alabama on pins and needles.
But national signing day isn't like the NFL draft, where there are several rounds and players being selected every few minutes. On signing day, most of the drama is over at noon, when the colleges receive the signed faxes from their recruits and announce their classes. Four hours is enough to evaluate the results. Nine is overkill, a lot of rehash and reruns of the same highlight film.
Every coach gets a chance to tell his alumni what a great class he just signed. Have you ever heard a coach admit that he just signed a lousy class, that it is vastly overrated, that it won't fill his needs for next season, that he flat out got outrecruited by another school for the player he wanted most of all? I'm waiting for that interview.
If you love attention, don't sign on signing day. Wait a week or even a month. If you are good enough, if you are a top 50 player and you have a big ego and crave attention, inform the recruiters and the media that you aren't ready to make up your mind--like Bryce Brown of Wichita, Kan., the nation's leading running back, and Orson Charles of Tampa, Fla., the nation's premier tight end.
February is the deadest month of all for recruiting. All of the college coaches are on vacation. Nearly all of the signing is over, except for Brown and Charles and a few other stragglers. In fact, recruiters are more interested in the class of 2010, this year's juniors. Proviso West's Kyle Prater, one of the nation's most widely recruited wide receivers, already has 18 scholarship offers. Some juniors already have made oral commitments.
I already have begun my annual trips around the country to personally interview and evaluate film of the top 1,500 prospects for next year's signing day. It shapes up as a very good class, probably better than the last few years, but optimism always must be tempered by the fact that much can happen between now and May, when the college coaches visit the high schools and make eye-to-eye evaluations.
What is important is kids are being offered now. Some are getting multiple offers. That is a strong indicator that college recruiters mean business, that the class of 2010 boasts a lot of talent. A year ago, Glenbard West's Chris Watt, the state's No. 1 prospect who eventually signed with Notre Dame, had only one offer at this time.
So recruiters are off to a fast start for next year and more players can be assured that they will receive offers when the college coaches return in May. The key for prospects is not to agree to attend too many camps or combines. The important ones are the one-day college camps. That's where players get offers, like Lane Tech linebacker Louis Trinca-Pasat, a relative unknown last season who showed up at Iowa's camp, impressed one and all, and left with a scholarship offer. It can happen that fast.