“National signing day is the Lady Gaga of college football. It’s absurd, excessive, self-important, and ridiculous beyond belief. Which is exactly why I’ll spend every waking moment Wednesday breathlessly monitoring every delicious, knucklehead moment of it.”
That’s Gene Wojciechowski, the senior national columnist for ESPN.com, describing today’s widely publicized coming-out party for star high-school football players, in which they commit to the biggest and best college football teams across the country.
The breathless build-up to their decisions helps support what’s become a gargantuan recruiting industry, with companies tracking every move of amateur athletes as they waver on where to suit up. It makes for great theater, if you’re into it: Gunner Kiel, a stud quarterback from the state of Indiana, got offers from 17 colleges. After verbally committing to Indiana University, he changed his mind and decided on LSU, then just last month flip-flopped again, settling (for now) on Notre Dame.
Landon Collins, said to be the nation’s top safety, made a name for himself on a live ESPN broadcast last month when he committed to Alabama over the wishes of his mother, who sat beside him chastising the decision. (She wants him to go to in-state LSU.)
What’s the real payoff from all those hours coaches spend on recruiting? It’s not so great, according to another ESPN article. Winthrop Intelligence, a college-sports research company, recently analyzed every recruiting class from 2006 to 2010, looking at 11,000 widely recruited players. (Four major recruiting services rate players on a scale of one to five stars.)
After checking more than 100 performance statistics, Winthrop found no correlation between the number of recruits with three or more stars on an FBS team and that team’s subsequent winning percentage. Translation: Whoop all you want when your team lands the big one, but his odds of helping you win aren’t all that great.