Bill Shanks commentary on national signing day: College football recruiting must change

Special to the Ledger-EnquirerJanuary 31, 2012 

Today is a national holiday for college football fans. As silly as it might be, many of us will sit around and wait for 18-year-olds to fax in football national letters of intent. Then we’ll get our depth charts out and see where they might fit in for the upcoming season.

It’s the hot stove league of college football, and, because the sport is a religion in these parts, recruiting is almost as important as the games.

Following recruiting used to be simple. When the magazines came out after the start of the year, you could grab a couple to learn the players’ names. The newspapers usually had their lists of Top 50 or Top 100 or something. And you could pretty much read the paper every day to see who had committed.

Now, in this Internet and Twitter age, we know more than we probably should know. We can get constant updates from reporters who cover the madness. We can even find the high school kids on Twitter and know what they think of their visits and when they make their commitments.

Yes, it’s almost a little creepy now. And the players seem to love having the fans of their potential teams following every word they write. You know some of them are just having fun with these people, pulling their chain. They are 18-year-old kids, so you know they get a kick out of playing with people who are so intrigued by their future.

The truth is, this chaos called recruiting could be controlled a bit more. But you wonder, with ESPN doing all-day coverage and the money made by recruiting sites every year, if the holiday has become too big to contain.

It’s hard to understand how college coaches, with all their coaching responsibilities, spend the amount of time they have to on recruiting. That’s why some coaches go to the NFL. They get tired of having to worry about 100 kids on a campus and then keeping up with some sophomore they need to offer quickly or lose the chance to recruit for the next three years.

Coaches should push for change, specifically an early signing day for college football. College basketball has one, but football keeps everything for one big day. But how much easier would it be for coaches if they could get some of their prospects signed early and out of the way?

Let’s say there was an early signing day right before the season, so kids who have committed could sign. Then those coaches wouldn’t have to keep a daily track of them as they must do if they are simply committed.

Then the coaches could spend more time on truly evaluating the talent that is left on their board, instead of rushing to judgments based on a kid being looked at by other schools in their conference.

It has gotten so out of control that it’s hard to imagine there will be any changes. That, however, is for others to figure out. I’m going to be busy today hitting the refresh button on my computer and wondering who has signed on the dotted line.

-- Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” 3-6 p.m. weekdays online at

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