Today is National Signing Day for all of the high school football stars and their families. On the positive side, it's a memorable and ego-building day for high school student-athletes who get to attend their pick of distinguished Division I universities for free and further develop themselves into productive adults.
It has also developed into a dog and pony show of sorts, where the future of America’s young athletes are exploited and distorted by media and colleges and even their own parents for purposes that have very little to do with the athlete’s well being.
The hype and festive build-up to these singing days have grown into huge productions. ESPN and other cable outlets present these 17-year-old kids as future superstars of the pro leagues and ranking systems make a grip analyzing the potential of these young players, when in reality, the majority of the new crop of hot prospects on these Top 100 lists won’t even become college stars. The NFL is a pipe dream.
It’s really silly when you think about it. And does it help the kids adjust to college life, when they already have a head bigger than Mr. Met’s before they step on campus?
If the football dream is exponentially greater than the dream to be educated and prepared for the job market, there’s no wonder why we lose just as many of these high school stars to the streets, financial ruin and social dysfunction after college or a quick stint in the pros.
The community and the celebrities that have attended these universities or are contributors and fans of these universities add to the hype and make the event seem like a celebrity caucus.
Over at Michigan, among the national leaders with 25 commits entering Wednesday, Jim Harbaugh and company aren’t letting up on the full court press. They are part of an elite crop of college kingpin schools who are still waiting to hear from nine undecided blue-chip prospects by day’s end. Therefore, M-U will conclude the year with yet another outside-the-box and unprecedented recruiting event.
Michigan has already ball-hawked a number of top recruits and is ranked No. 5 by Rivals.com entering Wednesday. In the most recent recruiting rankings on 247sports.com, Michigan is No. 7. Ohio State is No. 1, followed by Alabama, Ole Miss, LSU, Florida State and Georgia.
With a chance, however, to attain their highest team ranking of the Rivals.com era (since 2002) and some big-time ballers still undecided, such as the nation’s consensus No. 1 player, 6-foot-5, 300-pound defensive tackle Rashan Gary, from Paramus (N.J.) Catholic, who has narrowed his choices to Michigan and Clemson, Harbaugh and his Michigan family have spared no expense in rolling out the red carpet and creating an image that says, “We produce Legends. Come Here If You want to be one.”
Michigan held an introduction of the class at Hill Auditorium at 11 a.m. today and tabbed it as the “Signing of the Stars,” complete with celebrities, sponsors and a two-hour, invitation-only show benefiting the ChadTough Foundation.
According to The Detroit Free Press, the guest list of alumni and friends could rival the President’s Ball. It includes Derek Jeter (whose website, The Players’ Tribune, is a primary sponsor), Tom Brady, former Heisman winner Desmond Howard and NFL player Denard Robinson, to wrestling’s Ric Flair and pokers python Phil Hellmuth, to NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski, to former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz and two-time Super Bowl champion head coach Mike Shanahan.
Singer Josh Gracin is scheduled to be on hand as well as the music group Migos of Cam Newton Dab fame, and it will be emceed by comedian Randy Sklar.
All of this fanfare is merely to brainwash the minds of young, impressionable recruits by waving the most prestigious carrots in Michigan’s sports history stash in front of them and hoping they get caught up in the spectacle and commit to Michigan.
It’s also kind of sad how shamelessly these coaches promote recruiting as a business, and why not? Their jobs depend on it.
In college football, the teams with the best players win. The universities with the grandest history and most legendary players, who are featured in the elite Bowl Games are the schools that every kid with a dollar and an NFL dream wants to attend.
In order to get these athletes to come to your school -- even a prestigious football powerhouse like Michigan -- takes some persuading. The top 10 percent of high school recruits have myriad choices of schools if their academics are standard. They are also the type of players projected to seriously impact a program, so colleges who compete at the elite levels each season go after them hard.
That sports ticker will be rocking all day. Bodies will be moving and the top recruiting classes will begin to solidify themselves as winners. Recruits will be getting schmoozed within legal limits all day long and some won’t decide up until the last minute on the mic in front of the cameras. Others will fax in their letters of intent.
It’s a courtship similar to a romance. A lot of money is spent to impress at first and create an illusion of grandeur. Once the prey is hooked, the romancer goes out to hook another big fish.
Some folks will tell me to not be a hater and let these kids have their moment. It could ultimately be the best moment of their lives. Let these kids from these small towns enjoy their signing parties, parades and let their hometowns and the mayor get their 60 seconds of fame on ESPN and other outlets.
That’s understandable. The publicity that UCLA garnered by first signing music mogul P. Diddy' son and then bagging celebrity Snoop's son was priceless. It reflected well on the university in the swag department and reinvigorated the campus, which was losing its luster as a "cool" spot to attend.
But in most cases, these recruits are being misled and are increasingly becoming numbers lost in the football recruiting wars that billion dollar educational institutions rage against each other for the right to reign supreme and make a cash killing.
When is it too much?
Everybody wants to be a star and should strive for greatness, but this idea that singing to a college is any more than the beginning of a long, hard life journey, kind of makes this day bittersweet in light of the joy, adulation and pride that is rightfully enjoyed by all parties involved.