National Signing Day: "Mark Your Calendar!"
by Sam Kouvaris
Posted February 05, 2014
It wasn't quite ten years ago that you could sense a spike in the interest surrounding what was happening on National Signing Day. Formerly reserved for what were called "recruit-niks" and hard-core college football fans, suddenly high school auditoriums were full of students and faculty as football players (although all 'fall' sports use today as their first official day to commit) sat behind an array of hats and selected a school to play at the following year. National cable sports channels started to televise these announcements live and suddenly, new stars, and a new date sports fans put on their calendars were born.
A gym full of students sat completely silent (a feat in itself) as Tim Tebow waited for an ESPN producer to count him down to when he was going to make his announcement live on the air. When he chose Florida, the assembled group erupted, with cheers of "Go Gators" ringing through all of Nease High School. Interestingly enough, anybody who was there realized just how close Tebow had gotten to going to Alabama based on his relationship with Mike Shula. While much of the suspense regarding announcements is gone from this day because of social media and early commitments, it's still a fun and exciting day for the student athletes, their parents and the schools.
Although recruiting is an inexact science at best.
Before an avalanche of information became the norm, the 6 o'clock news was the first place college football fans would hear about which big recruits were going where. That's why in 1986, my phone rang about every 30 seconds on Signing Day with fans asking "Where'd Emmitt Smith sign." Luckily Smith had made his decision and announcement to attend Florida early enough in the day to get the information out in a timely fashion.
The following year, my phone rang about every 10 seconds all day with fans asking "Where'd Marquette Smith sign?" Perhaps relishing in the attention at the time, Marquette Smith waited most of the day before letting people know he was headed to FSU. The interest in Emmitt's destination was noticeable; the interest in Marquette's was like a circus. Of course, Emmitt Smith went on to an All-American Career in college and is now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Marquette Smith never could find his footing in Tallahassee, eventually transferred to UCF (when their program was not yet Division I) and spent two years injured in the NFL. You'd have never known that based on the level of interest in the recruiting of those players before cell phones, the internet and cable television brought this day right into the national sports consciousness.
Lives will be pushed in a new direction today, parents will exhale and be thankful their son or daughter will have the opportunity to continue their education (in man cases for free) and we'll update you throughout the day on what's happening right here on News4Jax.com as well as our Facebook page and Twitter accounts. And we'll have complete coverage at 5, 6, 10 and 11 tonight.