If you want to look at a big reason so many young college athletes find themselves staring down the barrel of arrests, suspensions and dismissals from big-time programs, look no further than the undisputed king of unwarranted media hype, National Signing Day.
You know, that day (and the weeks leading up to it) when kids — many of whom aren’t even old enough to vote or see an R-rated movie without mom and dad – are put up on a pedestal, in front of cameras and incandescent lighting, and basically told that they are the most valuable commodity since the Duke Brothers tried to corner the pork belly market.
And then we wonder why they act like they’re untouchable, and will have a blind eye turned towards any infraction of the rules they happen to commit.
It’s not only them who is living in the fool’s paradise, it’s all of us.
Because when they do (and so many of them do) break the rules…or laws…we have the nerve to get upset. We blame the coaches. We blame the NCAA. We blame the system.
When instead we should be pointing the finger of blame right back in our own faces. We, the sports-addicted public, who can’t fathom going a month during the offseason without some sort of glitz-and-glamour made-for-TV spectacle, demand this and use these kids to feed our voracious appetite.
Shame on all of us.
Think back to when you were 17 years old, or even 18 for that matter. Think of some of the incredibly dumb and unnecessary risks you took and decisions you made with nothing at stake other than your own personal well being and self-image. I shudder to think at what I might have done if I felt I were indestructible, with a terminal Get Out of Jail Free card in my pocket.
But when they make their mistakes, they are fed a public relations response to appease the Gods, they’re given a “consequence” for their actions, and then they go out and start knocking the slobber out of people again — because that’s what we demand.
Choosing a school should be a personal and soul-searching decision, made between the student, the family, and anyone close enough to matter. It shouldn’t be a media event. It shouldn’t be a matter of “how am I going to make a bigger splash than player X did last year”.
But it is.
Let’s take away the facade that this is for them, when we all know it’s for us. Get rid of all the TV coverage, the reporters standing by fax machines, and the “Breaking News” alerts. It’s not breaking news. It’s a teenager who has chosen a college. Yes, they may be an absolute beast on the field, and in time, that will all take care of itself when they go out there and do what they need to do. Let’s let the game bring it to them, not their National Letter of Intent.
And it’s not just me who feels like this entire recruiting process, and especially NSD, has gone completely off the deep end. Coaches, many of them who benefit from perpetual hype-machine it creates, think that it might be time to do away with it completely.
Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini, who’s entering his seventh season with the Cornhuskers, spoke to Yahoo Sports about getting rid of National Signing Day altogether.
“If somebody has offered a kid, let him sign. It’s over,” Pelini said. “That will stop some of the things that are happening — people just throwing out offers, some of them with really no intention of taking a kid.”
“Make (the offer) mean something,” Pelini continued. “People will be like, ‘Whoa, I’ve got to take this kid now.’ It will slow things down for the kids, for the institutions. There will be less mistakes. Why does there have to be one specific day? It will get rid of some of the stuff that goes on, kids pulling the hats and so forth.”
Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez also recently talked about Pelini’s idea of doing away with NSD in a radio interview on Sirius XM’s College Sports Network, via SB Nation.
“I’m thinking, boy, that’s really way out there, and then after I started thinking about it, I thought, ‘You know what? That makes a whole lot more sense than anything I’ve heard of,” Rodriguez said. “It’s whenever he gets offered and whenever he chooses to sign. If you think about it, it probably makes a whole lot more sense than anything else we’re doing.”
Another coach, who has been known to want to buck the system as it’s set up, is Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson, he also thinks that the current path is just one that is leading to more and more problems, as he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“Personally, with what Bo Pelini came out with, that’s what I’ve been talking about for years,” Johnson said. “That’s the way I would do it. You don’t even have a signing date. Once they commit, you give them a scholarship and they sign. You get 25 signees per year, and 85 spots overall. I think they have to be in their senior year of high school, or maybe (having completed) their junior year.
“It would cut all the (nonsense) out of it,” Johnson continued. “All those people who think they have offers would find out that they really don’t have offers. You know, if somebody walked in your school and said, ‘You have an offer,’ the kid could say, ‘OK, where is it? I’m ready to sign it.’ This would stop all this foolishness.”
Foolishness is right.
But you know what’s missing? Three important letters.
S – E – C
That’s right. We’ve yet to hear any of the powerful voices from the Southeastern Conference come out openly against National Signing Day. You know why? It would have too much of a devastating effect on their wallets. In fact, some SEC coaches have gone the opposite way, saying that any early signing period or deviation from the current course of madness would be too tough to deal with.
Imagine that. Coaches – who aren’t held to the same standard as student-athletes, and can come and go from college to college on a whim – think that giving these kids more options and less pressure would be bad.
Because what we are doing to them now is so full of goodness, right?
No, let’s just stop the feeding frenzy and remove the blood from the water. There’s too much pressure on these kids for a decision that could end up haunting them for years to come. If they’re offered and sign, let’s report it, and just leave it at that.