Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Wednesday 02/07 A.M. Quickie:
National Signing Day Mania

National Signing Day is for college football fans what the NFL Draft is for pro football fans. It has become one of the biggest days – not just of the college football year – but of the sports year.

NSD injects drama into the offseason and gives every fan hope that their team is making progress. College football recruiting news has evolved into one of the most intriguing cottage industries in sports.

In many ways, it's even more intriguing: For months, there has been speculation, rumor, breaking news of how "visits" went, oral commitments (which has always sounded pretty randy) and – most dramatically – commitments that are rescinded.

And, of course, the money question: "How many 5-stars [players] did you get?" (Or, alternatively: "Where is your class ranked?")

It all culminates today, when recruits officially – finally – sign their commitment letters and end the dance. If you were in a fraternity or sorority in college you will understand and appreciate the following analogy:

The recruits go from rushees -- being wined and dined (and god knows what else) -- to being pledges, which means the program owns their ass.

You will not be able to escape the so-called "experts" today, with their rankings. You may even find it unseemly when player after player goes on national TV to announce his decision. And you'll probably find it lamest that so many fans are breathlessly waiting on the results. I happen to love all this recruiting stuff.

Keep an eye on three NSD developments:

(1) Rich get richer. This is where CFB turns 180 degrees from the NFL's system to encourage parity.

(2) Florida's next national title: Urban Meyer is anticipated to bring in the No. 1 recruiting class in the country.

(3) Illini fans' best day: As you scan the top classes, one "Hunh?" name stands out: Illinois. Zook can't coach, but wow can he recruit.

UPDATE: Here's a storyline -- UNC's Butch Davis is apparently bringing in a haul. This goes to the heart of what we're debating in the Comments section: Is a great class enough to help turn a historically mediocre program around? Next year? Probably not. But a few years down the line, when this class creates momentum for future classes and legitimizes UNC as a place to pick over traditional powers and this year's talent develops? Absolutely. You also see that with Steve Spurrier's class he's picking up at South Carolina, which typically isn't a recruiting powerhouse. The common thread? Coaches matter.

More of today's biggest storylines:

UPDATE! NFL Rumor of the Day/Week/Month: Was a certain player hung over for the game after a night of SB-eve partying? Kissing Suzy Kolber posts a rumor. Just a rumor...

NBA: Celtics lose 15th straight, but the Grizzlies refuse to relax their grip on "NBA's worst record," losing to the Rockets. It's a race to the bottom!

More NBA: Yes, I neglected to talk about the John Amaechi story. Pretty big, considering that you rarely hear about pro athletes coming out. Expect a lot of columns and analysis about sexuality and sports and the usual "what it all means."

More NBA: Tyrus Thomas gets points for being candid about only being in the dunk contest for the appearance fee. But this was a case where he probably should have kept that to himself -- the NBA should pull him. I'll bet James White would appreciate the chance (oh, and he'd win, too).

College Hoops Parity Watch: Was it just a month ago when I was calling Air Force the top contender to be this year's George Mason? Ugh: AFA got walloped by San Diego State, 62-41. Pretenders!

Meanwhile, outstanding Ohio St freshman PG Mike Conley Jr. had his best college game (23 points, 6 assists), but you have to wonder how much it helps to play with Greg Oden (15 points, 8 rebounds, 6 blocks).

NFL Pro Bowl: LaDainian Tomlinson and Bill Belichick made up in Hawaii. Isn't that sweet? No word yet on whether Shawne Merriman has eaten Jason Taylor yet.

Meanwhile, I'm not sure there's a more worthless rule than the "Merriman Rule" about players who test positive for 'roids not being able to play in the Pro Bowl? So many players duck out of the Pro Bowl anyway, how will this serve as a real deterrent? It won't.

(Update: Commenters are right. I'm discounting the financial gain of being selected for the Pro Bowl. I have a question: How will the NFL keep players from being picked by the fans? Isn't the rule that they can't PLAY in the Pro Bowl? But if selection is based on a fan vote, who's to say the fans won't vote in a Merriman? Will they take the player's name off the ballot? Just curious.)

NFL Coaching: Are the Cowboys serious about hiring Ron Rivera? I have nothing beyond my own speculation to guide me, but I think it'll be a choice between Rivera and Norv Turner -- with Turner getting the job.

(Here's the dilemma: I have long thought -- "long" being "a few weeks" -- that Jerry Jones really wants Jason Garrett as his head coach, but can't bring himself to elevate him right now. Garrett needs more experience. Bringing in Rivera would block Garrett's eventual elevation. Turner would serve as a convenient place-holder.)

Britt Reid: The Eagles coach's son is the new Bengals.

MLB: Aaron Harang gets 4Y/$36.5M deal from the Reds. He led the NL with 216 Ks last season en route to 16 wins.

Varsity Letters Reading Series tonight! If you live in NYC, I highly recommend you check out the Varsity Letters series, hosted by Gelf Magazine's Carl Bialik. Tonight's lineup is great, headlined by SI's SL Price, who wrote that amazing Dwyane Wade "Sportsman of the Year" piece. Anyway, it's at 8 at Happy Ending (302 Broome St.)

-- D.S.


Andrew (JUhS) said...

"Zook can't coach, but wow can he recruit."

Everyone said the same thing about Mack Brown. Said as a formerly frustrated Texas fan (think: the Simms years) ... well, things can change. Worth mentioning.

ExhibitUnadorned said...

What's the general feeling on the newsworthiness of the John Amaechi story? The way it's being reported over here suggests that it might have a pretty big impact in the US, but from what I can gather it appears to have been an open secret anyway...

Dan Shanoff said...

Here's what makes that even more interesting:

Mack Brown was under intense pressure to win a national title.

At Illinois, I think they'd be happy with perennial bowl eligibility and the occasional Jan. 1 bowl.

Zook can recruit his way to 6-9 wins easily, overcoming any inadequacies as a game coach.

It's all about the standard set by fans.

Gary said...

I think the "Merriman Rule" is a deterrant because so many players have clauses written into their contracts about bonuses if they get selected to the Pro-Bowl. If you juice, you can't get selected and won't get the bonus, on top of the 4 games worth of salary you forefit for cheating.

Like Tyrus Thomas said (sic) It's all about the money

Mikepcfl said...

If I was a school, I would hire Zook and let him be the head coach for 4 years or so. Let him build up a stable of stud players, then fire him and bring in a good Xs and Os coach like Florida did to make a run at a title. Sort of like the Buck Showalter rule for college.

Big D said...

Actually, the "Merriman Rule" could become rather big. Remember, in the NFL, it's all about the dollars made and dollars lost.

With no guaranteed contracts, incentives clauses become that much more important. Incentives for things like being voted player of the week or month, or being voted into the Pro Bowl.

If players suspended for PED violations were ineleigible for any individual accolades, a lot of guys would be putting some serious bonuses at risk, not to mention - obviously - their reputations.

Unknown said...

Italian Soccer Rioting

Yesterday's blog asked a question about possibly banning fans from Italian soccer matches. I wonder why we don't see that kind of rioting in the US? We see occasional rioting after a sports team wins but usually directed at automobiles and garbage cans.

We almost never have mobs attacking each other. Could you imagine Indy and Bears fan getting in a huge rumble? Maybe it is so expensive to attend sporting events here that middle aged and middle class people compose too large a percentage of the fanbase.

People wear Yankee shirts to Fenway and Red Sox hats to Yankee Stadium. People may jeer but they would almost never attack the other fan. Europeans take their rioting way too seriously.

verbal97 said...

yawwwwwwwwwwwwwn...I thought we were done with football. Anyway, NSD has no impact with me, a BC alum. I already know we're going to get the best white players from New England and that's it.

Asteroid said...

I honestly think that the Cowboys should hire Ron Rivera. If they hire Norv Turner as the head coach, he has said he would like to bring in Rivera to head up the D. Bringing him in for one year is going to to nothing. Everyone says Rivera is ready to head up his own team, and I'm sure that would be a goal of his own as well. What would stop him from leaving Dallas after next year for a head coaching spot? Exactly, so just make him the head coach in Big D and bring in Wade Phillips to work with that 3-4 defense and Norv to run the offense. How funny would that be? The guy that brought Rivera's name in the mix gets hired as his OC.

Mega said...

Wait, there is a place called "Happy Ending"?

Ok, ok, ok, lame joke I know...

Only a little more while until pitchers and catchers report. The suspense is killing me (softly).

BLUE said...

National Signing Day is a joke, way more so then the NFL draft.

For one, 3/4ths of the 5 star recruits turn out to be average players. At the big schools, most of them redshirt and you have forgotten that they were a huge recruit by the time they get to play as Juniors. There are obvious exceptions, but for the 3 or 4 players a year that will make an immediate impact, it's not worth all the hype.

Take a look at Boise State, they don't ever recruit 5 star guys, but they get players that fit their system and that's why they continually win. Plus they play a weak schedule. Zook may be able to get all these big name guys, but if they don't fit his system, then it's quite pointless.

CMFost said...

Does anyone else think Dan should stop the comment moderation? Personally I think it is killing the flow of conversation. There has to be a way that he can keep the people that hurt this blog from commenting that does not ruin it for the rest of us.

Gary said...

He could go all "Deadspin" on us and have us apply to be commenters, then each person has a unique username and pw and can post whenever they want without needing approval.

The only problem there is I don't know how you can set that up on blogger.

solomonrex said...

What about all the hockey shootouts last night? It was amazing, GO BUFFALO!

I think fans here don't riot because of culture. We respect policemen, firefighters and soldiers and they also attend the games. We sing the national anthem before every game. We take our families to the games. We're more mobile and less blindly loyal, moving from city to city - and the teams move, too. We're more independent. We've had things happen, but never to the same degree. The Old World has a different mindset.

And it's tragic.

solomonrex said...

You can do blog membership on blogger.

I think he should find a way to keep the comment approval screen up and give his son a plastic hammer to approve or delete comments. That would be fantastic.

Or he could just let everyone comment and then delete them all every hour like ESPN did.

Hey, I just bet my co-workey $20 that I can comment more one-handed in one hour than he can two-handed. Hi-baaa-chi.

Trey (formerly TF) said...

Yes, Its National Signing Day and for those not from the SE quadrant of the United States, it's the BIGGEST nonsports event day of the year. (Bigger than the NFL Draft)

I am not one of those recruiting geeks that spend hours reading stories of players who visited etc. I casually read and get updates, however, on a day like today I am glued.

3/4 of 5 star recruits fail? I dunno about that. Maybe as NFL talent, but those stars are a predictor of their ability to play the college game, NOT in the NFL. For the most part they do become very good college players.

Usually when recruiting is discussed among nonCollege fans their first response is "half those kids don't work out. Like any Major Sports draft, recruiting does have its busts, it's inevitable. There was once a debate over who should go first Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf; Sam Bowie was the big man to get the Blazers to the next level; and Todd Van Poppel was a can't miss high schooler.

If you go back and look at the last three National Champions they all have had top 5 classes consistently. Boise State is a GREAT story, but they are not going undefeated in most major conferences.

Big day for the Gators, and I am excited.

Joe (Dayton)

ToddTheJackass said...

I agree with the other BC alum that posted here, in that National Signing Day really isn't that big of a deal for most people. Unless you're a Texas, USC, Florida, Miami, or other team that regularly piles up the 5 star blue chippers, then it just doesn't really matter all that much.

Dan, do you even cheer for Northwestern anymore? Seriously, when's the last time you've given a shoutout to YOUR alma mater?

CMFost said...

NDS - Don't Care with BC the only major college program in Boston it is not an important day.

Here is a question: Can you be a rookie and win comeback player of the year in the NHL? If so I nominate Phil Kessel of the Boston Bruins. Has cancer surgery in December and comes back and scored the game winning goal yesterday in the shootout. Which by the way is his 3rd games winner in three tries.

BLUE said...

Ask Arkansas, how that star recruit Mitch Mustain is working out for them. Or ask colorado how Colt Brennan is working out for them.

Look at the stars of college football last year, how many of them were 5 star recruits? None, unless you consider Adrian Peterson a star. NSD is just a way for schools to get their boosters to give them more money. Plain and simple.

For example, Florida is brining in what 15 5-star kids, of course some of those guys are going to be good, but great? Maybe 2 or 3. For every Tim Tebow (jury is still out) and Percy Harvin, there are 3 more sitting on the bench and will never play big time 1-A football.

FreKy J said...

Dan, you really missed the boat with the impact of the "Merriman Rule". While many players want to duck out of the actual game, being selected is VERY important. It was noted by at least one analyst that player contracts are filled with bonuses, including Pro Bowl selections. If you were to take away a player's ability to be selected for the Pro Bowl, you are telling him "No you cannot have that $1 million bonus for being selected to a Pro Bowl." That is a huge kick in the wallet.

Dan Shanoff said...

Of course all 5-stars don't work out. It's the same in pro scouting, too: Not all Lottery picks work out either.

It's easy to name the exceptions. The point is that, on the whole, a team is a lot better off stockpiling 4- and 5-star players than you are "coaching up" 1- and 2-star players.

There's a reason why the same teams are always in the Top 25: Recruiting is at the heart of it. Coaching and program infrastructure is the other part.

And when an unlikely team "crashes" the Top 25, the coach will almost assuredly tell you that the biggest benefit is that he gets to recruit better players. Just ask Rutgers. Or why Illinois hired Zook: He can recruit the program to respectability (if not national titles).

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
verbal97 said...

cmfost, if I recall correctly, Lemieux won comeback player his cancer season. That is, he played, was diagnosed with Hodgkins, got radiation treatment, came back and went on a storm to catch Lafontaine for the scoring title. Under the same premise, there is no reason why a rookie can't win.

Mega said...

Did I just see "Illini" and "national title" in the same sentence? Wow. That would be something!

No comments on how SIU is ranked #21 in the country? Anyone else think the MVC is the best 'mid-major' conference?

Oh and I forgot to add earlier, the Harang contract is great considering how much he would get on the open market.

solomonrex said...

Wow, that's cool about Phil Kessel.

Brian in Oxford said...

I'd have to think the NFL would take roiders off the ballot, at least an electronic ballot. Are there even paper ballots for it? In that case, put a disclaimer that voting for a future-disqualified person could happen, but that the rest of the choices on the ballot would still be honored.

The only thing I don't get about the Beanpot this week is, don't these teams play each other during the season already? The only difference is that it's at the Garden rather than on-campus.

Wow, national signing day. How many other amateur sports have free agency like this? Yawn.

chipp said...

The Cowboys need to take Rivera as their HC: Norv needs to stay in SF as the OC (please, please!). Alex Smith would be really hurt in his development if a change was made now. He needs some consistency right now.

Unknown said...

I just can't get fired up at all about signing day. I don't care at all about the incoming scrubs until they do something on the field.

The Amaechi thing is a story because he's the first NBA player to come out. The NBA probably tops the charts as far as homophobia goes, so that makes it news. Of'll be brushed aside because he's a) white and b) a Brit.
And most people don't know who he is.

Rivera should stay in Chicago until the Giants job comes open. Nothing better than a Boricua to run a New York team.

Unknown said...

I'll be brutally honest here in tribute to Tyrus Thomas.

National Signing Day is probobly the last MAJOR aspect of sports that I don't follow.

I know it's major, and it kind of slips by me, I admit it.

But I stopped over to a couple of the recruiting websites today to look at who did well and I noticed that eventhough Florida had the best class, USC landed the:
#1 RB, and #1 player in Louisianna
#1 DE, and #1 player in Arizona
#1 WR, and #1 player in Mississippi
#1 LB, and #1 defensive player in CA
#2 RB, also from California
#3 OL, and #2 player in Arizona
#3 QB, also from California
#3 DT, also from California
#7 OL, also from California
#9 DB, also from California

I'm confused. #1 ranked players from Mississippi and Louisianna? What happend to the SEC?

I also just noticed that Florida has the #1 class because it has 25 guys and USC only has 18. USC leads all schools in 5-star players and their average recruit has an average of... 4.22 stars?!?!? No other school broke 4.

I guess it's no secret why USC is always so good.

verbal97 said...

Re: Beanpot...Harvard doesn't normally play vs. BU, BC or Northeastern as they're in a different conference (ECAC vs. Hockey East).

Anyway, regular season games are regular season games. The teams that contest the NBA and NHL finals and sometimes the World Series and Superbowl play each other during the regular season and I don't think it takes away from the atmosphere or importance of the championships. The beanpot is the same. The games have more meaning and the atmosphere is great.

Gary said...

I wonder how easy it will be for USC to recruit once the Reggie Bush sanctions get levied.

Four years without playing in a bowl, or **gasp** on TV will sour even the most meager of recruits.

Pete Caroll better hope the Reggie Bush tapes don't sink his program.

Also, I think national signing day is a regional thing. I went to UConn, their recruiting class is ranked 84th...not much to get excited about, ya know, except for the JUCO transfer they get 4 months ago who is supposed to be pretty good.

Up here in the Northeast, unless you have alumni ties a southern team, signing day isn't a big deal.

Anyway, lets get into March's only a few weeks away!

Trey (formerly TF) said...

Look at the stars of college football last year, how many of them were 5 star recruits? None, unless you consider Adrian Peterson a star. NSD is just a way for schools to get their boosters to give them more money. Plain and simple.

That is a lot of the problem that most NFL guys don't get. The college game may have their stars, but not to the level of the NFL.

In reality how many "stars" were in college football last year? Troy Smith? Darren McFaddon?

You get a Reggie Bush (former 5 star recruit) or a Vince Young (former 5 star recruit) every few years but the college game doesn't promote the stars like many other sports do.

You can go through lists of 5 star recruits and see that most had pretty good college careers. Just because they aren't mentioned on SportsCenter every week does not mean they are terrible.

A guy like Derrick Harvey (former 5 star recruit) is not a name to MOST football fans in this country. But his 3 sacks in the national title game sure did affect the outcome of it.

You'll always have your recruiting flops.

Just an update for those who would like an NFL feel to recruiting. Dieon Sanders has talked Noel Devine (big time RB recruit) from signing with WVU.

Joe (Dayton)

starkweather said...

Ma4tt - I think you're right about bringing in Rivera as head coach and Wade Phillips as D-Coordinator but how about just let Norv be? If Garrett is neither head coach nor OC, what is the point of having him at all?

I think USC loses #1 status just to keep things interesting. But look out for The U - Randy Shannon looks like a great signing so far and if they really stick to the plan next year (keep every star recruit south of Tampa to themselves) we could see the Canes 3rd Era open in 2 years. My favorite signing is that JC revceiver whose name is Kayne - where else would he go?

macpherf said...

Four words to describe the importance of recruiting class "rankings" and number of "5-star" recruits:
Wake Forest - Orange Bowl

Unknown said...

Thanks for calling me on that. Admittedly, I only looked at a couple of pics of the guy, I didn't read to see his actual race, though you're doesn't matter.

NA said...

Duke Vs. UNC;
USA Vs. Mexico Friendly;

Really... None of these were worth mentioning?

Andy said...

Personally, Dan doing comment moderation is something I;m undecided on. On one hand, it does hinder open debates like it did for me the other day. On the other hand, it keeps stupid comments from being posted and then we don't have to waste the time reading them. I'm torn....

As for NSD, as someone who lives in the Midwest, it's not that big of a deal. I understand it's a big deal to those in the south and east though. i just follow who my Hawkeyes are getting and call it good. And I like what they do. They don't go for the 5 star players. They take the 3 and 4 star players that can be coached and coach them to fit the system. 5 star players all have one thing in common. Thhey think they know everything and don't take well to coaching. Give me 3 and 4 star players all day. Iowa will stay strong because of it. And watch out for them in the Big Ten next year! They don't play OSU or Michigan!

ToddTheJackass said...

BC actually did play Harvard during the regular season (and has at least each of the past 6 years). Harvard beat us 4-0. Can't say for sure about BU/NEU though.

And while BC/BU/NEU play each other several times each season (3), the Beanpot does have a special meaning as it's in the arena where the Bruins play. Matters the most to BU though, as they sadly win it almost very year it seems.

Basically it's all BU has, since their basketball team is mediocre, and they don't have football.

Go BC and our 3 star recruits!

starkweather said...

USC has nothing to worry about going forward. If they lose their trophy and Reggie's Heisman, everyone still knows they really won. And the biggest lure in college recruiting is getting to the big leagues. 4 years without a bowl? What are you talking about? Do you know how major the school's violations have to be to get that kind of penalty? Also - the Aaron Harang signing is a good one for the Reds if they get some other decent pitching to go with him. For this offseason he's a bargain. He's worth a lot more than Jason Marquis or Gary Matthews, at least. And Dan - I know the tendencies of UF fans to go overboard on NSD. You might be overrating the allure of it to the rest of the sports fans in the world.

kway34 said...

I didn't read every single comment, but who saw that 3 Pacers are accused of beating the tar out of a club owner? Between that and Stephen Jackson's stip club shooting incident, is that worse than the Bengals mass stupidity regarding booze and pot?

Brian in Oxford said...

Dan, I see you're speaking at the next VL in March. Any hints on the topic?

Roge said...

I'm afraid this post will get ignored because it's so late in the day, but here goes anyway.

The SEC and Big 12 had BY FAR the most ju-co transfers of the major conferences. I really dislike how this goes unmentioned. If you know anything about major college sports, you know that most of these juco guys either have 1) major off the field problems (i.e legal) or 2) terrible test scores/grades.

How can we completely condone this skirting of the system? Some of these guys have ACT scores around 14 (or lower) and are being admitted to major educational institutions. How is this just completely overlooked? It just shows how big of a joke it is that we don't view college athletes as paid professionals. It has absolutely nothing to do with school.

Beyond that, why do the Big 12 and SEC get off without a blemish for this? Is it because people just want to see good football and it doesn't matter how they got to the school they play for? You tell me.

Kurt said...

Northeastern > BU/BC/Harvard