High School Signing Day Coverage– Too Much?

High Schooler turned Huskie

For the casual football fan, a player’s career begins after college when they are drafted by a professional team in the NFL. For the college football fan the equivalent of the draft is the High School recruiting process. There has been a large spike in interest and coverage of this aspect of college football in the last few years. February 3, 2011 marked a huge day for many high school seniors across the country. The media has coined it “National Signing Day”, where players entering college football sign a binding agreement, or a national letter of intent (NLI), with the college or university of their choice.

Sports journalists have found a way to bank-in on live coverage of athlete’s decision making process. ESPN and Sports Illustrated have whole sites dedicated to high school recruiting. including ranking systems like the ESPNU 150.

For young high school athletes, it’s a dream scenario. When signing day roles around, all eyes are on them. For that day, they are the star. High school gyms fill with excited fans and well-wishers, cheering and screaming their name. Cameras flash, reporters flurry… all present to watch the player sit at a table and put on a hat, signifying which university they intend to sign with.

With all the coverage on the Internet and 24-hour sports channels, these athletes have taken full advantage of their 15 minutes of fame, surrounding themselves with family, friends and a host of cameras, as if they were signing an NFL contract instead of a letter-of-intent.

Listen. I understand that, for some of these guys, this might be the only time they get this type of exposure and they want to have a little fun with it. That’s fine. Nothing wrong there.

However, for some, it becomes a huge theatrical production as they purposely delay making their decision public and hold the college football nation hostage (a la Lebron James). If they want to drag it out even further, they make a speech about how hard their decision was (even though they’ve probably known for weeks) or pull a Lee Corso on us and act like they’re going to select one hat, then cast it aside and put on another. Or both. A whole bunch of hoopla just to don a ball cap.

Unfortunately, this coverage does nothing positive for a young athlete’s ego. All the exposure, and attention that sports journalists give to high school football players is setting them up to become arrogant pre-madonnas. Many of them will walk onto a four-year university with one focus; their own football career. Academics take a back seat. Why? Because sports journalists are pre-anointing these young prospects, telling them how great they are, heralding them as “the greatest (blank) since (blank) “. All the media attention and praise creates a warped reality for these young athletes that they are destined for Football greatness…that the NFL is a likely career option for them. This just isn’t the case. According to the NCAA, just nine in 10,000 high school players (.09%) and only one in 50 college seniors make it to the pros.

The truth hurts….

The question has to be asked- Is National Signing Day Coverage just good fun or potentially harmful exploitation?

I plead the later…..



  1. I agree completely with you, Brandon. The students signing their letter of intents should not be treated like they are entering the NFL. The fifteen minutes of fame is a nice way to celebrate their accomplishments. However, their attitudes walking onto the team would be THEIR OWN career and nothing else.

    Their ego’s would be overflowing with pride and although the skill levels vary, anyone that has ever been a veteran on a team or sport knows that when a new player walks in like they are better or more important than ANYONE else on the team, it’s not a good thing. So I agree completely with you!

  2. I agree with you that sports journalists hype up the athletes with all their coverage but I feel it’s with reasoning. We all know that sports fans want to know what high school player is signing with what college team, therefore NLI provides ample areas for story coverage. But what makes it a good reasoning is that the audience feeds into NLI every year making it a lucrative and successful package. In order to stop this coverage from becoming cliche, many times it seems as if journalists hype up players more and more every year in different ways, thus creating the arrogant monster some athletes become. Unfortunately it seems that with today’s economy and the way journalism is now lucrative and successful stories trump the negative effects it has on the subjects.

  3. Brian Weiss says:

    I actually watched a little bit of National Signing day and I did not like it one bit. They overhype every single one of the players that they show. These guys are still Seniors in high school. Many of whom are still struggling to graduate and even make it to the college that they are signing for. It’s not like they are going to be in the NFL making millions in a couple of weeks. These guys are going to be college freshmen. They soak up all the attention they receive on this day and it goes straight to their head. Many of these athletes will never play professional football. I think the media is negatively affecting these kids lives by putting them in the national spotlight. Immediately the expectations go through the roof and the athlete has to struggle to live up to them. I just think that they could easily sign the letter without all the national attention and it would make life a lot easier for the athlete.

  4. I agree and I disagree. Hypin these kids heads up is terrible and unrealistic and doesn’t do them any good. But I think signing day is just being taken to seriously by some people. The idea alone is fine. But what most people dont realize is that some of these kids are poor, hungry and determined and all they know is that this sport is what got them out of the hood. Where the plan turns bad is that they have coaches telling them D=Degree and letting their grades slide. The media telling them that they are the next “so and so” wouldn’t matter if they had a backup plan in case the NFL wasn’t in their destiny and they knew that it was unrealistic despite what the media says.

  5. I agree that it has become a situation in which harmful explotaiton is occuring. It is evident that it is becoming too overwhelming when a kid fakes the entire ordeal. In 2008 a high school football player from Nevada, Kevin Hart, took the nation by storm when he faked his entire recruitment process. I think the stress of being a college prospect is enough let alone when cameras are put in your face. It also puts them out there to the nation and anything that is said or done while it is being reported on can develop certain expectations. All of these extra expectations may become an overwhelming stress factor on these upcoming stars that could potentially lead to the downfall of their career.

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