By David Schuman
Alabama beat LSU for the national championship 23 days ago, but for the true diehards, the second season was just getting underway. I’m talking about the offseason, the recruiting season. For those who consume college football in a manner similar to the way Morris Claiborne gobbles up an entire half of the field, today is Christmas and the Super Bowl all wrapped up into one glorious bonanza.
It’s the holiday known as National Signing Day.
Do you feel that? That tingly feeling in your gut? How about the lightheadedness? We call that hope, my friend. Hope that with this recruiting class, your program is ready to take that next step. Hope that college football’s next star just signed his letter of intent to walk on your campus. Hope that your prayers have been answered.
Nowhere is all of this a bigger deal than in SEC country. Being a Vanderbilt student originally from New York, I have only recently been introduced to the rowdy institution that is football in the South. The enormity of National Signing Day became clear pretty quickly though. Legions of fans, including grown men and women who have jobs and families, unashamedly hang on every word of 18 year olds they have never met. You can now add the Twitterverse to that as well, which brings a whole new dizzying quality to the hysteria.
I say “hysteria” because there is a potent measure of irrationality about the whole thing. You know how it goes. If your archrival picks up a commitment from a guy you wanted, the first assumption is that the rival must have bent the rules. You pull out all your defense mechanisms, saying things like, “Well, if he’s susceptible to being seduced by Rival U, he’s not the kind of kid we want anyway. We’re probably better off without him.”
Anyone who follows the recruiting battles even a little can see how heated it gets. The controversy even manages to wedge itself between families. The most recent example is what happened with Landon Collins this year. At the Under Armour All-America game, the five-star safety from Geismar, Louisiana committed to Alabama in front of the national TV audience. His mother proceeded to…well, check it out for yourself.
Now, some may say the hype has gotten out of control. With top prospects now holding press conferences to announce their choices, there is justified criticism that these teenagers are being celebrated before they have accomplished a thing. Remember Jimmy Clausen with his limousine and rings? The image still makes me nauseous, but the fact is National Signing Day has become a spectacle because there is a demand for it. Websites such as Rivals and Scout have made recruiting a year-round event that doesn’t look to be waning in popularity any time soon.
Basically, we obsess over Signing Day because of the rush. The unbeatable thrill of reeling in the big fish after months on the recruiting trail. For an Auburn fan, beating out Alabama for a prized recruit can feel almost as good as winning the Iron Bowl. And you’re not paying attention if you don’t think Michigan fans, after the insufferable Rich-Rod era, are outright giddy about their Top 5 class.
So sit back and enjoy today, the day where the wellspring of hope runs eternal. Even for non-SEC fans. Well, let’s be real. They don’t have a shot.