Signing day has lost its thrill

February 14, 2019

The thrill is gone.

Remember when the first Wednesday in February felt like a second Christmas Day for college football fans?

It was National Signing Day.

It was when colleges unveiled their future by announcing the recruits that had signed their national letters of intent. So, yes, it was a lot like Christmas for fans. The only difference is the presents were linebackers or running backs or offensive linemen.

Some people took a day off from work just so they could keep tabs on their favorite school’s signing class — the recruits would be announced one-by-one as their letter of intent arrived via a fax machine.

The first Wednesday in February was that big of a day.

But not anymore.

The luster, the pizzazz, the excited anticipation all evaporated when the NCAA added an early signing period on Dec. 19-21. Granted, it was an outstanding move for the recruits. Instead of the sometimes agonizing process extending another two months, the recruits got it over and done with.

It wasn’t a great move, however, for fans. Abruptly, their Christmas Day Part II was gone. And the excitement of National Signing Day disappeared with it.

Take Marshall University’s 2019 recruiting class, for example. The Thundering Herd signed 20 prospects, but only four on Feb. 6. The other 16 committed in December during the early signing period.

Sure, Marshall still hosted an event for fans Wednesday evening at a restaurant, showing video clips of the 20 recruits. That was very appropriate, but it’s still not like the exciting times on the first Wednesday in February.

Of course, it also isn’t the intensely hectic situation it was for Marshall head football coach Doc Holliday and his staff when there was only one signing day.

Now, instead, last Wednesday wasn’t much different than any other Wednesday.

“We got a workout in this morning with our kids,” said Holliday, during a news conference Wednesday afternoon in the press box at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

“I think we signed four guys. Normally, you are sitting and waiting around for 24-25 (guys). The old fax machines don’t work half the time when they (the signed letters of intent) get in. “But, now, it is emails and scans and all the things are a lot better. But just having to deal with four or five kids at this point, then that’s a good thing.”

It’s certainly convenient.

But exciting?

Not so much.

The surprising part is now Holliday is embracing the early signing period. When it was first enacted, the veteran recruiter was openly critical of the concept. But, now, Holliday has done a 180-degree philosophical turn.

“I was totally against it, to be honest,” he said at the news conference. “After being a part of it for two years now, I kind of like it because you know exactly what you have and where you need to go during the next three weeks to get things done.”

Doc has given way to progress. That’s a smart move. And, make no mistake, the early signing period is indeed progress. It is very proactive for the student-athletes. And, let’s be honest, they are the first priority.

Yet, as is so often the case, progress has its price.

Just ask the fans.

For them, the first Wednesday in February used to be a holiday.

Now, it’s just another Wednesday.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.