BE REASONABLE ABOUT RECRUITING
National Signing Day, a veritable Christmas-in-July for college sports fans, has shifted its perceived significance since the emergence of the digital age.
At the Division II level, NSD still hasn’t reached the level it has at Division I. Grand Valley State fans could track GVSU’s signings yesterday via Twitter, as both the GVSU football account and Laker head coach Matt Mitchell posted graphics introducing each player and revealing the players’ hometowns and high schools. GVSU soccer did the same thing.
In total, GVSU football received 24 commitments. Soccer received five. The day went off without a hitch in Laker Nation, so it seemed, and soon after, the glow will fade. It’s time to get to work.
But in Division I football, it’s not the same. It’s not enough for players to send a letter of intent to their university, announce their commitment in a quick fashion and get to work. National Signing Day has turned into a veritable circus, and yesterday it seemed as if the Ringling Brothers had taken hold of the media. And the fans may be the ringleaders.
A four-star safety announced his commitment to Ole Miss before leaping out of an airplane and skydiving. The nation’s No. 1 recruit, Rashan Gary, committed to the University of Michigan in a segment on ESPN. He arrived at the ESPN studio in a limousine. Other top players create involved videos, eventually revealing, through a series of intricate graphics, what school they will be attending.
Is there anything wrong with kids having fun with their announcements? Of course not. But at the Division I level, top players aren’t satisfied with the classic video from their basement and throwing on a hat. It’s about flair. Pizzazz. Attention.
Why? Is it because of the available outlets? The ease to get on YouTube or Instagram? Or is it the incessant fans that drive egos and push players to become the story, rather than being part of it?
The recruiting process has become so transparent through social media that these players are almost encouraged to make a big show of their decisions. Every day on Twitter, grown men will tweet at high school athletes, begging them to come a certain school, or berating them if they choose elsewhere.
The recruitment process is exciting for nearly everyone involved. Fans love it. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for players. It gives schools free publicity.
But it’s dangerous. Check out any five-star recruit on Twitter and note their number of followers. Do these people know anything about the athletes outside of football? For the most part, no. Athletes are often dehumanized, and, as a high school superstar, keeping a level head probably gets more and more difficult every year. Thus, the egos that plague college sports. Thus, the certainty from nearly each player that he will make the NFL. Thus, the elaborate commitment announcements.
So please, college football fans, stop the obsessing. Stop the tweeting at recruits and stop the madness. Step back, and look at the athletes as students, as people, for a moment. In short, ignore recruiting.
Things will float back down to Earth. The focus will fall again on football, or, for some, an education made possible by football. The craze and the spotlight will fade. Athletes will become human again.
It’s best for everyone.