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From the publisher: The Valentine's Day of college football

February 7, 2011

While the 2010 college football season is a quickly fading memory for most rational people (who won the BCS Championship again?), activity on the football front was far from silent this week.
That’s right. You don’t have to have the glorious traditions of a Saturday tailgate or a ball game complete with school colors, cheers and marching bands to get some folks whipped into a college football frenzy. Even smack-dab in the middle of winter, one topic still gets some fanatics hyped up for college football.
Signing day and the recruiting wars.
Yes, it seems like with each passing year the attention the sports world pays to a cold day in February increases just a little more. Some avid fans find pleasure in sitting by their computer and refreshing the Internet every 30 seconds to find out which high school recruit penned his name to a piece of paper committing himself to attend one college or another. Here, one premature prima-donna, I mean player, (or is it “student-athlete?”) lines up the caps from all of his Division 1 choices like he is prepared to play the magic shell game. Is the school of his choice, really the “winner” if an incoming freshman fakes toward one hat then picks up another? Maybe if he is a 6’10, 310-pound offensive lineman.
Elsewhere, web cams are trained on athletic department fax machines, and as signed commitment papers come streaming in, a short-skirt wearing co-ed applies a new name to the big board. Roll Tide to that, by the way.
In the meantime, magazines and websites dedicate hours of time and tons of manpower to concoct elaborate rankings for high school athletes and a prognostication process that means exactly ... what does all that mean anyway? If an esteemed university football program gets the most five-star, high school football players, is that really going to make a huge difference in the grand scheme of their program? When you consider how it seems some of those top recruits either flunk out, get arrested or it just becomes clear they were only big fish when they were playing in a teen-weeny pond, I’m not sure all the recruiting wars and signing day publicity really amounts to anything more than something for sports fans to talk about.
And that, my friends, may be exactly why we are all getting beaten over the head with National Signing Day 2010, Sign-a-palooza. The crazy college commitment contest of contests. There’s just nothing else going on in the sports world.
Sure, the Super Bowl is coming, but the week-long lead-up is little more than a big fat gab session for ESPN’s talking heads. NASCAR is still a few weeks away, and baseball is off somewhere in the distance. I guess college basketball should actually draw some attention, especially as conference action heats up, but even excitement around the hardwood seems to be muted until we see March on the calendar. You can’t honestly tell me that people really watch the NBA.
As a result, we have a colossal sports void right here in early February. So, just like the greeting card companies who dreamed up Valentine’s Day as a “holiday” to peddle more cards, the college football world and all the folks who get paychecks from it have brought us SIGNING DAY: One more reason to think about football weeks after the season ended and months before a new one is set to start. Signing day: one great way to put a spotlight on over-rated football players who probably are an awfully long way from proving they deserve it. Signing day: a great way to remind avid fans why they hate their bitter rivals. Yes signing day, the Valentine’s Day of college sports.
All jokes and cynicism aside, in Catawba County at Newton-Conover High School, four young men marked an important next step in their lives. There were no spotlights, shenanigans or hype for four student athletes who have worked hard to earn a chance to play college sports and, more importantly, get a great education. Congratulations to Newton-Conover’s John Reid and Cameron Shuford who signed commitments to attend Mars Hill, and Octavius Harden and Mike Comer, who will attend Wofford. After covering and reading about all of these guys on our sports pages in recent years, I wish them well in their future endeavors in college. And if they make it to the playing field, well, good luck there, too.
As for all the other big-time media whores and “five-star” recruits whose faces have been splashed across ESPN, Rivals.com and Scouts.com for the past few weeks, get back to me if you ever make it to the starting line-up.

Michael Willard is the publisher of and a columnist for The Observer News Enterprise. His column appears in the weekend edition.

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