For most of us, yesterday was another standard exercise in running out the weekly clock and not a day known for being the first Wednesday in February.
Unless you’re a recruiting junkie, you probably didn’t realize yesterday was college football’s traditional National Signing Day. Since the introduction of the early Signing Day in December, the first Wednesday in February, once one of college football’s holiest of holy days, has been relegated to another day between the end of the season and the start of spring practice.
Players across the country still have ceremonies and operate fax machines* on the traditional day, but the anticipation, drama, and anxiety have been almost completely removed. The majority of high school and junior college players prefer to make their choices in December, either for the chance to enroll early or to stop getting 8 billion texts a day.
*The fat cats at BIG FAX are still finding ways to be relevant.
One might assume the anticipation, drama, and anxiety of February would shift to December, but that largely hasn’t happened. For example, Ole Miss under Lane Kiffin has generally signed everyone they expected to in December, with only a smattering of surprises.
Perhaps that speaks to Ole Miss being a more professional operation under Kiffin, as opposed to [gestures at all previous coaching staffs], with a dash of essentially open negotiations with recruits rather than double secret meetings in a parking garage.
Whatever the reasons, Signing Day shenanigans that once brought delightful and agonizing insanity into our lives on the same day every year are likely not coming back. So, to pour one out for those days of yore, let’s fire off a power rankings of old Signing Day traditions.
10) Fax cam
Did we need a grainy livestream of a fax machine likely acquired through a bad office supply contract but received all of the National Letters of Intent? YOU BET YOUR ASS WE DID.
Could you actually see any of papers coming through? Absolutely not. But sometimes you could see someone collecting papers or adding more paper to the fax machine. It let us know stuff was getting done.
9) People taking off work
That’s right, burning a vacation or sick day to monitor the proceedings from your situation room. You may have even had people join you, or you went to someone else’s situation room.
It was like that famous picture of Obama and people in his administration watching the operation to kill bin Laden.
But instead of watching Navy SEALs go to work, you were watching ESPNU hoping to hear a four-star recruit say, “Ole Miss University.”
8) People going to the bar to watch announcement ceremonies
We love a good situation room, but knocking off work at 2 PM to enjoy cold domestics and a ceremony or ceremonies was ELITE. Plus, no matter how the ceremonies went, a celebratory or coping mechanism was one order away.
7) People taking off work and driving to campus to monitor the situation
The true beautiful psychopaths. I don’t know if Ole Miss still does something like this, but once upon a time, when the athletics office was in this building by the Turner Center (there were actual mobile homes used as offices behind the building because they were out of space in the building)...
...staffers displayed a dry erase board and wrote in the signees as they received their faxes. People would stand in the entrance all day and watch them update the board.
Again, true beautiful psychopaths.
6) Work productivity clocking in at zero percent
For the majority of people, missing work was not an option. However, just because we were at work doesn’t mean we worked.
It was always possible we could get a few things done in the afternoon once the initial Signing Day flurry passed, but from 7 AM to 1 PM, we ain’t here to move units and be TCB-ing.
And if you worked in the right place, your boss was doing the same.
5) Website refreshing
From our experience at Red Cup, there is nothing that moved page views like February Signing Day. Astronomical numbers compared to anything else.
Which reminds me, I once had to make like 35 Pokemon-themed recruiting cards like this for Signing Day:
It took 2-3 weeks, and when one of those players with a card signed elsewhere, friends, I was steaming mad.
Anyway, the point is, on no other day of the year did the refresh button in your browser get such a workout. I’m talking about a click every 20-30 seconds.
“Is my internet broken? Why is this refresh taking so long? HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE WE SIGNED IN THE LAST 14 SECONDS? AT&T, YOU ARE A BUNCH OF THIEVES WHO...ah, well, there’s the update. Nothing new since the last refresh.”
4) “We’re still waiting on his fax.”
A classic sign trouble was possibly afoot. Maybe it was a paperwork thing and sending faxes was a confusing process, OR School X got to him. Let the paranoia wash over you.
Of course, in the case of former Ole Miss recruit and actual Texas A&M player Floyd Raven, it was a “we’re waiting on a legible fax.”
If you recall way back in February of 2011, Raven was a defensive back committed to Ole Miss. On Signing Day, Ole Miss received Raven’s letter of intent, but they couldn’t read the signature.
After asking Raven to send another fax, they got radio silence. It became clear Raven’s mother sent the fax without Raven’s knowledge. As a bonus, she didn’t know (allegedly) Raven changed his mind and wanted to sign with Texas A&M, which he did.
That this happened under Houston Nutt was a little too on the nose from the college football scriptwriters.
3) Zero communication with coaches
Whether it was through one of the Ole Miss subscription sites or a friend looping you in, it was all you need to know that player wasn’t signing with Ole Miss.
“Haven’t heard from him in several days.”
“Not responding to texts.”
“No idea what’s going on.”
TELL THE BACKUP PLAN TO HOLD ON, WE’VE GOT ROOM.
[learns there is no backup plan]
Of course. How silly of me to assume we were organized.
2) Hiding players
We’ve reached the weapons-grade Signing Day actions. It’s one thing to lose communication with the player, but when family members, friends, and coaches couldn’t tell you his location, that was the good stuff.
Was he in a church basement? At a remote hunting cabin? AT JACKIE SHERRILL’S SECOND LAKE HOUSE THE GUBMINT DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT?
As you might expect, when you had no clue about a recruit’s location on Signing Day, he was going somewhere else.
1) Long-time commit postpones a ceremony for a few hours
You already knew the cash came in from elsewhere, and the long-time commit was going to express his love of R.E.M., Widespread Panic, Drive-By Truckers, and The B-52s. Fortunately, there were plenty of other linebacker options, jk, nope, there was nothing.