Almost anything of any consequence seems to get over hyped in this age. Why? Easy. There are more television stations looking for programming, more websites looking for content and of course, the social media explosion that has occurred over the last few years. National Signing Day is not spared the over hype treatment.
ESPNU begins their coverage around 7:00 in the morning. They go on for hours with the news of the day and spend many of the next several days rehashing what they told you the first time. ESPN and ESPN.com pass the info along using their assets. All day long we see kids holding press conferences, putting on hats and doing interviews. A few of them are lauded as the next big thing. No wonder some have huge egos!
Critics gnash their teeth at this kind of coverage and yearn for the days of when recruits were never seen and barely heard from. The complaints usually sound something like "No 17 year old should ever be on ESPN!", or "no high school kid should ever have a press conference." Right behind those complaints are "You don't even know if they're actually any good yet", usually referencing the haul of four and five star recruits that big time schools reel in. I love the Good Old Days more than most my age, but for the most part I have to disagree with the curmudgeons on this one. Let's start from the end of that list of complaints.
"You don't even know if they're any good yet." True. So what? Anytime something like this occurs, whether it's a recruiting class, a draft class or a free agency class, the obvious question is "how did they do?" All we can do is go by the numbers/rankings available. Yes, there have been many big time recruits that flopped and two or three star recruits that are playing in the NFL. I don't care. Let people react to the event and discuss it with the information we have available at that time. The players will sort the rest out in time and lead to further discussion and reaction.
"No high school kid should ever have a press conference." Wrong. They absolutely should. A press conference is not set up for grand standing and glorifying. Press conferences are for the media to talk to somebody they want to talk to. If they didn't have press conferences then every TV, radio and newspaper person in the area would be knocking on the recruit's door looking for an interview. I'm sure they'd be willing to oblige, but after doing this several times they'd probably think "wouldn't it be easier to just get these all out of the way at once?" Yes! That's why you call a press conference. Let all the reporters into one room and ask all the questions they want and get it out of the way. That's what pressers are for, not to throw bouquets at a player some feel is four years away from dominating on Sundays.
"No 17 year old should ever get on ESPN." This is one I agree with. THIS is sensationalizing. Personally, I don't care what the top recruit in the country says after agreeing to go to Mississippi State. I already know why he went. I know why all of the recruits picked the schools they did. They like the school. Yes, it's that simple! They like the coaches, the system and the location. In a lot of cases they like the educational aspects too. The coach sold the school to the recruit. That's it. Ask any recruit why he went to a school and you're going to get an answer along these lines. I'd still show up to a press conference to hear them, because you want the sound bite. But there is no need to feed a 17 or 18 year old's ego by putting him on national television while four guys sit around a set and hang on his every word.
I'll add one more to the list of complaints. I'm not a big fan of calling the whole school to an assembly to watch kids sign their papers. If the school has a tradition of calling assemblies to watch kids sign academic scholarships, make the honor roll or otherwise recognize those that have excelled, I'm not as much against it. But if they don't do those things I don't think they should single out the athletes. We already have a problem in this country of people getting special treatment because of what they can do with a ball. I'm not for starting it in high school.
I like National Signing Day. I love hearing about how Ohio State, Akron and Kent State did. I don't think it needs to change a lot, I do think it should be tweaked. Kids work very hard to get scholarships, some recognition is not a bad thing. If anything they can serve as examples to others. Having a kid at a table play with three hats like it's a shell game while the nation watches is pointless and stupid. There's no pea under one of those hats. In some cases there's only a seed of narcissism.
Mark Schwab, Sports Anchor/Reporter