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National Signing Day – Are You Ready?

By now I’m guessing the folks at Hallmark have come up with a few cards for the occasion…Happy National Signing Day!

National Signing Day (NSD) has become another one of our nation’s athletic passions. An entire recruiting industry has been built around it. It certainly is a day that John Hancock would be proud of.

Yes, there are other signing days, but the first Wednesday in February is, by far, the most celebrated of the National Signing Days. It is the first day high school football players (and some other less celebrated sports) can put their verbal commitment to paper. It is the student-athlete equivalent of Christmas morning. By comparison, athletes of earlier or later signing days are merely celebrating Festivus. But for what?

The fact is 26% of the student-athletes who sign on NSD will no longer be on athletic scholarship by the start of their sophomore year of college.

Why do such a high number of kids fall off the scholarship radar? The reasons are numerous: student gets home sick, misses their boyfriend/girlfriend, realizes college is a lot of work (particularly with the demands of playing D1 or D2 ball), or the coach that recruited them leaves and they don’t fit into the new coach’s philosophy. Remember, student-athletes sign with the school, not the coach. Imagine what Oregon football recruits and current players were thinking the past few days when news broke that Chip Kelly was close to becoming the Tampa Bay Bucs new head coach.

But, I also attribute some of it to the pressure of signing with a school on the first day possible, even if they’re not quite ready to do so. Many colleges put that pressure on the student-athlete by saying, “We need to know now or we are going to allocate your scholarship to someone else.”

With new pending NCAA legislation that would allow D1 schools to offer multi-year scholarships, there is some hope that the 26% number will decrease, at least slightly. According to the D1 programs I have spoken with, the norm will be to guarantee five years on those scholarships. But, the bottom line is, if you’re not ready to sign, don’t sign!  Make 110% sure you have done all of your research and only sign when you, and only you, are fully comfortable with the decision from both an athletic and academic perspective.

A good example is the story of University of Georgia tight end Orson Charles. Orson was a top flight, blue chip football recruit as a member of the Plant High School (Tampa) Florida state champions in 2009. But, while several of his fellow teammates signed on the first Wednesday of February, Orson waited until weeks later to commit to the Bulldogs. Just last week he declared for the NFL draft and is projected to be a second round selection.

The calendar says National Signing Day is just days away. The reality is your NSD can be whenever you are ready for it.

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