If you're reading this you're more than likely a Purdue football fan. That means you already know that in the last two years Purdue football has won a total of four games. Four. In two years. It's not been a great time to be a Purdue football fan. Today is National Signing Day for football. That means the hottest young prospects will sit at podiums with hats in front of them, or sweatshirts, or t-shirts, and pick the school they will play for. It's a day full of suspense, some surprises, and the future of college football. With all that in mind I could not care any less about this so called event. Neither should you and let me tell you why.
You just know that Purdue isn't going to sign any huge names. That's just not the type of school we are. Purdue makes their money based on finding diamonds in the rough and turning them into football players. Look at guys like the recently retired Nick Hardwick. Guy was a walk-on for heaven's sake. He was molded into a football player through hard work, grit, and determination. Purdue doesn't sign the five star recruits nor do they get involved with down to the wire signing day decisions on a regular basis. There are exceptions to this of course but about 90-95% of the time I find that statement to be accurate. So why should I care? Why do ESPN, ESPNU, and other sports networks have all day coverage of 18 year old kids signing their names to pieces of paper?
To be honest I don't know the answer to that. Recruiting itself freaks me out enough. I can't imagine being a college football or basketball coach and having to suck up and pander to not just 18 year olds signing on NSD but also 14 year olds and up. Imagine having to go speak to a freshman and more or less begging them to come to your school. Do you remember yourself at 14? Were you in any way equipped to make such a life altering decision? More importantly, were you ready to make a commitment and stick with it? The number of kids, and yes they are kids, who verbal to a school then flip to another school is just astronomical. Purdue alone has enough to drive you mad. Now imagine that your job is dependent on these kids keeping their words for a year, two years, or even more. How do you think you'd handle that? if it were me I imagine it would go something like this.
I don't have the stomach for football recruiting. Basketball recruiting I can handle since there are fewer pieces on the board and each team gets such fewer scholarships. These guys, roughly 20-23, are going to sign with Purdue tomorrow and I honestly couldn't name one of them. I'll read about them later. Of those 20-23 roughly half will never make a substantive on the field contribution. That's nothing against these guys. Football is an incredibly difficult and competitive sport. Some guys are going to come in and automatically be 5th or 6th on the depth chart at a position that only has one to two players on the field at a time. They will have time to work their way up but whose to say that a new recruit won't come in and jump them. What's to say their career won't be derailed by injury. Perhaps they will transfer. Maybe some will just stop playing football entirely.
At this point you might be asking what the point of this rambling post is. I'm getting to it I promise. Even in the last 7-8 years the hoopla around national signing day has grown by leaps and bounds. I don't necessarily think that's a good thing. I'm glad these young men who have put in the hard work and are so clearly talented are getting their moment to shine, but at the same time I wonder what the effects are of glorifying an 18 year old's athletic prowess. After all, aren't they at the school to get a degree? Sure a very small percentage of them are going to make a living playing football in the NFL or elsewhere but the vast majority of them are going to be relying on that degree to make a living. We glorify so much the decision making that we forget these are just high school kids. Glorifying their decision making, and the horse race to get them, has always seem a bit perverse to me. We wonder why these guys come into college and have issues with class, drugs, and run ins with the law. It's because we've put them on a pedestal. We make them feel and seem invincible. Perhaps we are all part of the problem.
I certainly respect their talent and drive to get where they are, but what I don't respect is the process. Some coaches and kids do it right of course but more and more it seems like that is the minority. A lot needs changed in the whole process but I honestly can't tell you where to begin. Until the whole system gets a bit of a cleaning out I'll be boycotting national signing day. T-Mill might not want me to say so but I hope you do too.