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"visits" went, oral commitments (which has always sounded pretty randy) and – most dramatically – commitments that are rescinded.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.
(3) Illini fans' best day: As you scan the top classes, one "Hunh?" name stands out:
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."
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
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 (