By Stephen Spiewak
When February 4 rolls around, many casual college football fans will go about their normal business. That routine will include going to work (or class…or not), commuting home and catching up on the day’s noteworthy stories from the world of sports.
For more serious college football fanatics, the first Wednesday in February is the culmination of months of speculation, solicitation and anticipation.
National Signing Day is a minor holiday for die-hard fans from programs around the country – and for good reason. Many colleges will hold a “Signing Day Party” to celebrate the momentous occasion when high school seniors sign binding letters of intent to play for their college of choice.
But for the more casual fan that may recognize the name of one or two recruits, simply reading about the incoming freshmen in the summer football preview typically suffices.
However, that casual onlooker is truly missing out. As any dedicated “Recruitnik” would be happy to explain, there are plenty of reasons to keep refreshing your browser window to track commitments and to keep your television tuned to around-the-clock coverage.
Here are five reasons to follow;
1. February Football Fix: Pardon the alliteration, but it’s true. Let’s face it, February is pretty much the black hole of the sports calendar. Only recently has the Super Bowl started to creep into the beginning of February. It feels like months have passed since Florida took down Oklahoma. We are still weeks away from calendar cornerstones in other sports – March Madness and baseball’s Opening Day.
National Signing Day slides perfectly into that gap. It bridges the end of the bowl season with spring practices. It’s a reason to care about football when no games are being played, a nice dose of pigskin in the dead of the winter.
2. Optimism: For many of the previously stated reasons, it can be a down time for a sports fan. More specifically, if your college football team did not win (or qualify) for a bowl game, times may be especially tough.
National Signing Day is a time to cast disappointment aside and place hope in the future. There are no losers on this day. Adding new players to a program equates to potential. On this day, no one thinks about potential busts or potential flame outs, but rather, potential All-Americans.
3. Excitement: Even the most casual NFL fans seem to keep their finger on the pulse of the NFL Draft; it’s an exciting and entertaining day as a team’s future rests on its ability to select top talent among a pool of hundreds.
Similarly, college football fans who will be paying attention Feb. 4 know how gripping National Signing Day can be. It features much of the suspense that the NFL Draft has, except it turns a key paradigm on its head.
In the NFL Draft, power rests with seasoned team executives to make prudent decisions. All the power on Signing Day belongs to the recruits themselves, as college football coaches and fans are left at the mercy of fickle teenagers.
4. Proud Moments: I was never recruited by any college for any sport, so I can only imagine the flurry of emotions as high school athletes achieve their dream of playing Division I football and sign on the metaphorical dotted line.
Genuine pride and a sense of accomplishment undoubtedly top the list of feelings that overcome these young men. And truly, their happiness rubs off. It’s hard NOT to smile when you see the beaming, ear-to-ear grin of a recruit committing to spend his next several years to play football at the next level.
5. Staying Current: If you need a more selfish reason to pay attention, how about this: do you want to be that poor sap who was walking around Athens, Ga., or Tuscaloosa, Ala., last summer asking people, “So who is that wide receiver wearing No. 8? Will he play much this year?”
Like it or not, freshmen are having a big impact at some of the country’s deepest programs. The middle of the season is not the time to learn about first-year phenoms.
No freshman wide receiver may have the impact that A.J. Green and Julio Jones had in 2008, but mark it down – a stud freshman will impact the race for the BCS National Championship game.
Click here for MaxPreps’ 2009 Signing Day page and tune into CBS College Sports on Feb. 4 for live coverage.