National signing day: The most overblown day in sports

By OWEN O'BRIEN
On February 4, 2014

What's the difference between the national signing day saga and LeBron James' "Decision" in 2010?

Actually, let's begin with what's similar: ESPN prospers.

Wednesday - today - is national signing day for college football. This means ESPN will send cameras and reporters all over the country - sometimes into living rooms of 17- and 18-year-old kids - to find out where high school seniors will play college football next season.

On Tuesday, ESPNU had a 2.5-hour "National Signing Day Preview." Yes, ESPN experts spoke about where these high school students might be playing next season, as if we were all on pins and needles and couldn't wait any longer to find out.

ESPNU begins Wednesday with a two-hour preview from 6-8 a.m., then it goes straight into the "National Signing Day Special" until 7 p.m. Thirteen straight hours of live look-ins of students sitting in front of a row of hats, making a little speech before ultimately picking up one to signify their selected school.

How does ESPN decide which houses to visit? Based on high school football rankings. How one can compare players from Texas, California, Florida, New York and New Jersey is beyond me. Some fans will sit in front of their TVs all day - looking at athletes they've never heard of before - praying that some kid chooses their favorite university.

How does anybody know how these kids will translate into the college game? Truth is, they don't. A highly rated class doesn't guarantee a national championship down the road and a low class rating doesn't seal your fate.

Take the Bulls for example. Their 2009 class includes a potential Top-10 pick in Khalil Mack and senior standouts Branden Oliver and Alex Neutz - who were all redshirted. Rivals.com had this class rated No. 110 of 122 teams with no recruit rated higher than three of five stars. It was ranked 11th in the Mid-American Conference. Mack, Oliver and Neutz, however, have the potential to be in the NFL.

There wasn't any camera documenting their decision process.

On Wednesday at 5:30 p.m., at Santora's Pizza Pub and Grill, the Bulls will announce their newest class. I don't see any reason to be excited over this. We won't know anything about how these student-athletes will translate to the college game until spring practice anyway, so I'm not interested in their names.

I do understand it's a "cool" experience for the players. Who doesn't want to be on TV, have all eyes on them and hear their name discussed on ESPN? LeBron wanted it, perhaps because he never had that opportunity to control his own fate.

He went to the NBA after high school, therefore forfeiting a true recruitment experience. He was the consensus No. 1 pick, thus losing the potential drama and excitement that goes along with the draft.

"The Decision" was his moment to be like these high school kids and have all eyes on him. People were outraged at LeBron, but for whatever reason, it's not only socially acceptable but also encouraged for college football players to make their decisions on a national stage.

But for all you football junkies, enjoy your day. Enjoy the living rooms of high school athletes who probably won't even contribute to the team for a few years and can always transfer somewhere else in the future.

Enjoy Todd McShay, Mel Kiper or whoever else will analyze these players and show you film of a future SEC defensive lineman laying out a running back who's going to school for computer science.

I'll wait until they step on the field.

 

email: owen.obrien@ubspectrum.com


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