NATIONAL SIGNING DAY

THE DAY MEANS BIG DREAMS FOR ATHLETES AND FANS AND BIG MONEY TO BUSINESSES GEARED TO TURNING THOSE DREAMS INTO REALITIES

 

ACCORDING TO WIKIPEDIA, THE INTERNET’S ANSWER TO ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA, NATIONAL SIGNING DAY OFFICIALLY CAME INTO EXISTENCE IN 1981.

 

BEFORE THAT A FEW MEMBERS OF WHAT HAS NOW BECOME KNOWN AS THE POWER FIVE CONFERENCES HAD A “CONFERENCE” SIGNING DAY ON THE SECOND SATURDAY IN DECEMBER.  THIS WAS NO DOUBT DONE TO GET A JUMP ON OTHER SCHOOLS IN THE RACE TO SIGN THE NATION’S TOP TALENT IN HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL.  THAT THE SEC WAS ONE OF THE CONFERENCES INVOLVED COMES AS LITTLE SURPRISE.  WHETHER OR NOT IT HAD ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE SEC BECOMING THE PREMIER CONFERENCE IN THE COUNTRY IS UP FOR DEBATE.  MY GUESS IS THAT THE FOOTBALL CRAZY SOUTH WOULD HAVE PROPELLED THE SEC TO THE LOFTY STATUS IT ENJOYS TODAY REGARDLESS OF THAT STRATEGY.

 

WHAT IS NOT UP FOR DEBATE IS THAT SOME POWERFUL COLLEGE FOOTBALL COACHES OF THE DAY FROM OUTSIDE THE SEC AND THE ACC, ANOTHER CONFERENCE THAT HAD A CONFERENCE SIGNING DAY, THOUGHT THAT THE CONFERENCE SIGNING DAY GAVE THOSE CONFERENCES A LEG UP IN RECRUITING AND PUT FORTH AN EFFORT TO LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD BY INSTITUTING A NATIONAL SIGNING DAY.

 

AT THE 1980 COLLEGE FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION’S CONVENTION A RESOLUTION WAS PROPOSED CALLING FOR A SINGULAR NATIONAL SIGNING DAY.  IT PASSED AND IN 1981 IT OFFICIALLY CAME INTO EXISTENCE .

 

SINCE THAT TIME THE BUSINESS OF RECRUITING, IDENTIFYING TOP RATED RECRUITS, GETTING THE SCOOP ON WHERE THAT RECRUIT WILL BE PLAYING HIS COLLEGE FOOTBALL AND ANYTHING ELSE ASSOCIATED WITH RECRUITING HAS EXPLODED.

 

RECRUITING RATINGS SERVICES SUCH AS RIVALS.COM, SCOUT, 247SPORTS AND ESPN HAVE COME TO DOMINATE THE INDUSTRY BUT SMALLER WEBSITES AND BLOGS HAVE CARVED OUT A NICHE TO SERVE THE TOTAL FOOTBALL FANATIC WHO JUST CAN’T SEEM TO GET ENOUGH.

 

ACCORDING TO AN ARTICLE BY JON SOLOMAN FOR AL.COM, A WEBSITE IN ALABAMA, SHANNON TERRY, NOW THE CEO OF 247SPORTS BOUGHT THE FIRST VERSION OF RIVALS.COM IN 2000 OUT OF BANKRUPTCY.  HE SOLD IT IN 2007 TO YAHOO FOR 100 MILLION DOLLARS.

 

TERRY 45, WHO WENT TO DAVID LIPSCOMB UNIVERSITY IN NASHVILLE, TN ON A BASKETBALL SCHOLARSHIP, STARTED A RECRUITING WEBSITE CALLED ALLIANCE SPORTS.  WITHIN A FEW YEARS ALLIANCE WAS DOING A MILLION DOLLARS IN REVENUE WHEN SEATTLE BASED STARTUP RIVALS NETWORKS BOUGHT ALLIANCE FOR $3 MILLION.  AT THE TIME RIVALS BOUGHT ALLIANCE THE INTERNET WAS GOING THROUGH IT’S FIRST BOOM.  A FEW YEARS LATER WHEN THE INTERNET BUBBLE POPPED, RIVALS WENT BANKRUPT AND IT WAS TERRY  WHO PURCHASED RIVAL’S ASSETS  FOR AROUND $500,000.  TERRY HAD MADE $2 MILLION WHEN HE ORIGINALLY SOLD ALLIANCE TO RIVALS AND IN 2007 WHEN HE SOLD RIVALS AFTER BUILDING IT BACK UP HIS 20 PERCENT OF THE COMPANY MADE HIM ANOTHER $20 MILLION.

 

TERRY’S STORY IS INTERESTING AND IT ALSO GIVES AN INSIGHT INTO HOW PEOPLE GOT THEIR RECRUITING FIX BEFORE THE INTERNET CAME ALONG AND PROPELLED IT INTO WHAT IT IS TODAY.  ALLIANCE GOT INFORMATION FROM SPORTS TALK RADIO, TEAM NEWSLETTERS AND WHEREVER ELSE THEY COULD GET INSIDE INFORMATION ON RECRUITING AND SPREAD THIS INFO VIA A 900 PHONE LINE.  FANS WOULD CALL AND GET A RECORDED MESSAGE OF THE MOST UP TO DATE RECRUITING INFO OF THE DAY.  THIS UNDOUBTEDLY HAD TO BE A BIG HIT IN SEC COUNTRY.  WHERE ELSE WOULD YOU HAVE GROWN MEN CALLING CHAT LINES TO FIND OUT IF SOME HOT SHOT QUARTERBACK IS THINKING OF PLAYING FOR THEIR SCHOOL.

 

ANYWAY WHEN THE INTERNET CAME INTO EXISTENCE IT WAS THE PERFECT VEHICLE TO GET THAT INFO OUT INTO THE MAINSTREAM.   IT GAVE FANS A PUBLIC FORUM TO VOICE THEIR OPINIONS, SUPPORT/RIP THEIR SCHOOL/COACH AND BEST OF ALL, RIP THE OPPOSING SCHOOLS.  IT WAS A MARRIAGE MADE IN FOOTBALL HEAVEN.  IT WAS ALSO A GOLDMINE FOR ALLIANCE SPORTS.

 

ACCORDING TO THE ARTICLE WHICH WAS WRITTEN IN 2014, RIVALS IS THE LEADER IN SUBSCRIBERS WITH 200,000.  IT’S FOLLOWED BY SCOUT WITH 80,000 AND 247SPORTS WITH 70,000.  SUBSCRIPTION RATES VARY BUT MOST AVERAGE AROUND $10.00 PER MONTH.

 

THE ARTICLE WAS BASED ON THE THEORY THAT THE RECRUITING SERVICES INDUSTRY HAS HIT THE PEAK OF A BUBBLE.

 

MY INTEREST IN THE STORY IS NOT WHETHER THE BUBBLE HAS PEAKED OR EXPLODED BUT RATHER HOW THE BUBBLE  KEPT INFLATING IN THE FIRST PLACE.

 

FIRST OF ALL YOU HAVE TO UNDERSTAND THAT THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RATING SERVICES AND SCOUTING SERVICES LIKE THE NATIONAL COLLEGIATE SCOUTING ASSOCIATION (NCSA), NATIONAL SCOUTING REPORT (NSR) AND GOBIGRECRUITING.COM.

 

THE RATING SERVICES SUCH AS 247SPORTS, ESPN.COM AND RIVALS RATES PLAYERS  ACCORDING TO POSITION AND GROUPS STATE WIDE, REGION WIDE AND FINALLY NATIONALLY.  THE RATINGS GUYS ALSO ARE MORE “ENTERTAINMENT” ORIENTED.  WE SEE THIS ON A PROGRAM LIKE ESPN’S COLLEGE FOOTBALL LIVE WHERE THEY”RE DOING SHOWS ON RECRUITING AND THE RECRUITS THEMSELVES AROUND SIGNING DAY.  THE PLAYERS THEY’RE COMMENTING ON ARE THE D1 RECRUITS AND TEAMS.  THE AUDIENCE THEY’RE AFTER IS A WIDER ONE.  THEY’RE TARGETING THE FOOTBALL FAN IN GENERAL BUT THE HIGH SCHOOL AND COLLEGE FOOTBALL FAN IN PARTICULAR.

 

SCOUTING SERVICES ON THE OTHER HAND PROVIDE A SERVICE TO HELP STUDENT ATHLETES GET INTO A SCHOOL OF HOPEFULLY, THEIR CHOOSING.  THE SERVICES ACT AS AN ADVISOR TO THE PLAYER AND HIS PARENTS PROVIDING SUCH THINGS AS ACADEMIC ADVICE AND THE REQUIREMENTS NEEDED TO PARTICIPATE IN COLLEGIATE SPORTS, TECHNOLOGICAL PROMOTIONAL SERVICES SUCH AS VIDEO OF THE STUDENT ATHLETE’S PERFORMANCE INCLUDING GAME FILM, CAMP AND SHOWCASE / COMBINE TYPE PERFORMANCES.  IN ADDITION TO THAT THEY ACT AS A CONDUIT BETWEEN THE PLAYER AND HIS FAMILY AND THE PROSPECTIVE COACHES THEY’RE TRYING TO REACH.  THESE GUYS ARE TARGETING THE PLAYER AND HIS PARENTS.  BY THE WAY, THEY ARE NOT JUST FOCUSED ON FOOTBALL OR BASKETBALL.  THEY ARE AFTER THE STUDENT-ATHLETE IN ALL SPORTS AND ALL GENDERS.

 

NO MATTER HOW YOU LOOK AT IT, BETWEEN THE RATINGS SERVICES AND THE SCOUTING SERVICES THERE IS AN INCREDIBLE AMOUNT OF MONEY INVOLVED WITH HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL AND THE PROCESS OF EVALUATING PLAYERS AND GETTING THEM INTO COLLEGE.

 

IT’S NOT JUST ONLINE EITHER.  ON WEDNESDAY WE WILL BE INUNDATED WITH TV PROGRAMMING FROM ESPN, THE SEC NETWORK, THE BIG TEN NETWORK AND ANY OTHER CONFERENCE OR TEAM FOR THAT MATTER WITH THEIR OWN NETWORKS.  I WOULDN’T BE SURPRISED IF A NATIONAL NETWORK LIKE CBS OR ABC INTERRUPTED A REGULAR SCHEDULED

PROGRAM TO ANNOUNCE DEFENSIVE END RASHAN GARY, THE NUMBER ONE RECRUIT IN THE NATION FROM PARAMUS CATHOLIC IN NORTH JERSEY, HAS SIGNED A LETTER OF INTENT TO ATTEND NOTRE DAME.  I KNOW THAT WON’T HAPPEN BECAUSE EVERYBODY KNOWS THE FIGHTING IRISH ALREADY HAVE EXCLUSIVE CONTRACTS WITH NBC AND SHOWTIME.  JUST KIDDING ON THAT ONE FOLKS.

 

EVERYTHING AROUND FOOTBALL RECRUITING HAS EXPLODED IN THE LAST DECADE TOO.

 

CAMPS HAVE BEEN POPPING UP ALL ACROSS THE COUNTRY.  RIVALS, 247SPORTS AND NIKE, JUST TO NAME A FEW, ALL RUN CAMPS AROUND THE COUNTRY.  THE CAMPS RUN BY THESE GUYS ARE ALMOST ALL BY INVITE ONLY.  DO GOOD AT THESE CAMPS AND YOU GET INVITED TO CAMPS LIKE THE RIVALS FIVE STAR CHALLENGE.  THIS IS THE BEST OF THE BEST.  THESE ARE THE KIDS THAT HAVE NO NEED FOR THE SCOUTING SERVICES.

 

THE CAMPS HAVE BECOME MORE SPECIALIZED TOO.  ELITE FOOTBALL NETWORKS RUNS THE “ELITE BIG MAN CAMP” FOR LINEMEN.  OF COURSE I DON’T HAVE MENTION THAT THERE ARE QB CAMPS.  EVERYBODY IS A “QUARTERBACK WHISPERER” THESE DAYS.

 

YOU’RE GOING TO NEED COACHES AT THESE CAMPS AND THAT’S WHY THERE ARE COACHING CLINICS.  IT’S A NICE SIDE BUSINESS FOR A LOT OF ASSISTANT COACHES AT THE COLLEGE LEVEL.  IT’S ALSO A GOOD WAY TO GET A SCHOOL’S FOOT IN THE DOOR OF A PARTICULAR RECRUIT BY ESTABLISHING A RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS COACH.

 

THEN THERE ARE THE 7 ON 7 COMPETITIONS.  A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO I HEARD OF A NORTH JERSEY SCHOOL THAT WAS COMPETING IN A 7 ON 7 TOURNAMENT.  IN SOUTH CAROLINA!  THE FURTHEST WE WENT DURING A 7 ON 7 DRILL WAS JASPER ST.  SOMETIMES A WAYWARD PASS WOULD MAKE IT’S WAY ONTO THE STREET THAT RAN ALONG THE PRACTICE FIELD AT NORTH CATHOLIC AND THE PLAYER’S “ROAD TRIP” WOULD BEGIN.

 

SO THE BIG DAY IS ALMOST UPON US.  THE FAX MACHINES ARE WARMING UP AS I TYPE (I BELIEVE IT’S THE ONLY REASON THERE ARE STILL FAX MACHINES).  PLAYERS ARE AT THE MALL PURCHASING HATS OF THE SCHOOLS THEY AREN’T GOING TO (THERE’S NO WAY HE’S GOING TO A SCHOOL THAT DIDN’T AT LEAST GIVE HIM A HAT, AMONG OTHER THINGS).  THEY’VE TOLD THEIR MOTHERS WHERE THEY’RE GOING AND MOM IS PISSED (SEE ALABAMA COMMIT LANDON COLLINS AND HIS MOM, LSU FAN APRIL JUSTIN.  ALSO SEE FLORIDA GATORS COMMIT GERALD WILLIS AND HIS MOM, LSU FAN APRIL JUSTIN).  BY TOMORROW NIGHT ALMOST EVERY KID KNOWS WHERE HE’LL BE PLAYING HIS COLLEGE FOOTBALL.  BY THURSDAY MORNING THE COMMIT/DE-COMMIT CAROUSEL WILL START SPINNING (IT’S AN ANNUAL RITE OF PASSAGE).
I WOULD SAY THAT BY FRIDAY MORNING THE WHOLE PROCESS RESETS BUT THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER IS THAT IT NEVER REALLY STOPS.  THE BUSINESS OF IDENTIFYING THE NEXT LEONARD FOURNETTE OR CHRISTIAN MCCAFFERY SEEMS TO START EARLIER AND EARLIER IN THE PLAYER’S CAREER.  WE SEE THE FILM SHOT ON HIS DAD’S IPHONE WHEN HE’S PLAYING IN THE POP WARNER SUPER BOWL AT THE ESPN WIDE WORLD OF SPORTS COMPLEX IN DISNEY WORLD.  FROM THERE IT’S OFF TO A SPEED AN AGILITY CAMP TO PREPARE HIM FOR THAT 7 ON 7 THING IN SOUTH CAROLINA.  FROM THERE IT’S OFF TO LIDS TO GET THOSE HATS.

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