Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Most wonderful day of the year
By Gene Wojciechowski
National signing day is the Lady Gaga of college football. It's absurd, excessive, self-important and ridiculous beyond belief. It's the equivalent of Maryland's unis worn with Oregon's Rose Bowl solar panel helmets -- and all in 3-D.
Which is exactly why I'll spend every waking moment Wednesday breathlessly monitoring every delicious, knucklehead moment of it.
I'm not going to apologize for it. I love signing day. I celebrate its absurdity. I luxuriate in the sheer dumbness of it. It's our version (and by "our" I mean anyone who worships college football) of the NFL draft.
Is it a meat market? Yes. Is it a disturbing annual ritual that should cause us to reassess our culture and question our personal priorities? Of course.
But I think the more important, overriding concern is this: Where is uncommitted wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, ranked No. 3 in the ESPNU 150, going to sign?
Signing day is a guilty pleasure. It's like watching "Jersey Shore" when you should be studying for your final in statistics. Snooki overpowers your will to open the book.
I'd never heard of Landon Collins, the nation's top safety, until he verbally committed to Alabama at the recent Under Armour All-America Game in St. Petersburg, Fla. (By the way, in most cases, a verbal commitment carries the same weight as a Todd Graham text message to his former Pitt players.) Now everyone has heard -- and seen -- his mother, April Justin, do a "Mission: Impossible" thing and disavow any knowledge of his actions.
She wants Collins to go to in-state LSU. He wants to cross the border and Roll Tide. On Wednesday, when the letter of intent is faxed, we find out for sure.
|Landon Collins picked Alabama. His mom, April Justin, wanted him to pick LSU. Who will win in the end? We find out on signing day. |
In the meantime, a multimillionaire head coach who just won his third national championship has to semi-sweat out these final hours involving the Collins family. I love that too. It's one of the few times, if not the only time, that Bama's Nick Saban isn't in complete control of a Crimson Tide football situation.
Seriously, is there a more degrading process than the recruitment of high school seniors? And yet, about two weeks ago, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel traveled to Green-Beckham's high school in Springfield, Mo., in a helicopter. Because, I don't know, DGB had never seen one of those strange flying machines?
And last week Pinkel and his coaching staff boarded a bus for the 168-mile ride to Green-Beckham's Hillcrest High.
Enjoy the bizarreness of it all, DGB, because reality arrives the second you sign the LOI. There won't be any more helicopters landing on your high school's baseball field. The recruiters and the recruiting analysts will move on to the next can't-miss kid, which is probably defensive end Robert Nkemdiche of Grayson High School in Loganville, Ga.
Anyway, this is it. This is the window of opportunity for silliness. This is the time to hold us hostage.
Remember in 2001 when EVERYBODY thought No. 1-ranked Kevin Jones was going to sign with Joe Paterno and Penn State? And then Jones showed up at his news conference, held up a PSU jersey, tossed it away and pulled off his sweatshirt to reveal a Michael Vick Virginia Tech jersey?
|National signing day is the one day coaches, like Auburn's Gene Chizik, have no control. They are forced to watch, wait and cheer like everyone else. |
Remember last year when running back Isaiah Crowell tugged a Georgia ballcap over his dreads and then held up a bulldog puppy as a signing day prop?
Remember in 2008 when Kevin Hart staged his own signing with Cal? (He says he's signing a real one with D-II Missouri Western State on Wednesday.)
Remember in 2000 when Jonathan Colon signed with Florida and Miami?
It's nuts. It's surreal. It causes ESPNU 150 quarterback Gunner Kiel to verbally commit to Indiana, then decommit, then commit to LSU, then decommit, then commit and enroll at Notre Dame.
It prompts then-Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin to accuse then-Florida coach Urban Meyer of cheating. (Meyer was cleared of any wrongdoing.)
It creates drama, blood pressure spikes and top-25 recruiting classes lists that can later mean nothing.
And I can't wait.
I'll watch the nationally televised and often awkwardly choreographed news conferences in the high school gyms. I'll happily endure the dance of the school hats. I'll see players smile with relief and parents beam with pride.
Except for April Justin.
|Isaiah Crowell had a unique way of showing that he was going to play for the Georgia Bulldogs. |
Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at email@example.com. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here. And don't forget to follow him on Twitter @GenoEspn.