The fact that we're still discussing Isaiah Crowell's puppy-bearing 2011 Signing Day announcement a year later proves that, no matter what turns the running back's career in Athens might take, the moment was a smashing branding success for the University of Georgia. This year's haul of signing ceremonies has been light on pageantry, although one Mississippi State commit did involve an actual human baby in his announcement. So wags the world away. In a fit of wishful thinking, we got to fantasizing about blue-chip athletes swanning about campus with jars full of stinging insects and elite high school prospects piloting heavy machinery through school property, and before too long we had this list of schools whose commits we would very most like to see follow in Crowell's footsteps and introduce a wee young mascot at their Signing Day ceremonies. Those Top 25 teams are as follows:
25. Big Cat Schools. Your Wazzus, your FIUs, your LSUs. Perhaps unfairly dinged because there are just so many Big Cat schools, and if this becomes a trend we'll soon have a Signing Day entertainment market saturated by baby lions and bobcats. Any LSU prospect bringing along a white tiger with purple eyes to match the Bayou Bengals' latest Pro Combat unis, however, will receive an instant and much-deserved rankings boost. (This being LSU, we estimate this is at most three years from happening.)
24. Western Kentucky. Don't know and don't care to know why the Hilltoppers employ that terrifying red blob as a mascot, but perhaps it will be less nightmare-fueling in a more portable size?
23. Oregon State. What do baby beavers even look like? target="_blank">Surprisingly adorable, while the bite risk adds needed edge of suspension.
22. Army/Navy/UCF/Vanderbilt/Virginia, etc. The human mascot schools are at a marked disadvantage here, because as far as we know one can't actually be a baby and a swordsman at the same time, but high marks for any recruit hauling along a young relative in full plate armor to announce his choice.
21. Toledo. Also dinged in the rankings because rockets are not living things, but what about sending, say, a kid's high school mascot out onstage in a rocket? Baby bulldog or cougar or whatever piloting a tiny spaceship? We're there.
20. Oregon. Here because, while any sonofagun can rassle up a baby duck from the neighborhood pond, we can't be completely certain Nike isn't engineering its own race of them that look just like Oregon's actual mascot.
19. MTSU. The WKU dilemma, again: We fear this thing, and yet we want one.
18. Alabama. Once they become too unwieldy to care for at home, promising young elephants will be given internships in turf management at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
17. Baylor/Cal/UCLA, etc. Baby bear cubs are obtainable, but the not-ignorable threat of an encroaching mama bear makes this a winning strategy.
16. Boise State/SMU, etc. Extra points awarded for difficulty of maneuver. YOU try smuggling a baby horse into a crowded gymnasium, smart guy.
15. Michigan. Are wolverines (the forest creature, not the football player or cartoon) as vicious when they're young? And do we not deserve to discover this for ourselves, on television?
14. Maryland. Baby turtle's just gonna sit there and blink before attempting to sidle back into the nearest freshwater river, making it a perfect metaphor for the Randy Edsall era.
13. Iowa State/Miami/Tulsa, etc. Oh, it can be done.
12. Purdue. Recruit goes steampunk, sends LOI to West Lafayette by way of miniature train set. Faxing is so tacky.
11. Arkansas. Hell, there's one just hanging around campus waiting to be borrowed!
10. Florida Atlantic/Rice/Temple, etc. Owls impart sense of sagacity to headstrong high school BMOC types, flaunting our "birds are gross" rule. Harry Potter canon also teaches us that these creatures know magic.
9. San Diego State/San Jose State/Troy/USC. Problematic in execution, but conceptually intriguing, and really, how far away are we from recruiting via time-travel, anyhow?
8. TCU. If it can squirt blood from its eyes at that age, so much the better.
7. NC State/Nevada, etc. What's better than bringing a baby wolf to Signing Day? Bringing a WHOLE BUNCH of baby wolves to Signing Day to honor one's new Pack!
6. Buffalo/Colorado/USF/Texas, etc. Logistically daunting, but "I brought a buffalo calf to Signing Day!" against "I trampled my guests!" is a risk-versus-reward proposition well worth considering.
5. Marshall. See No. 7, with added mayhem bonus.
4. Stanford. Baby tree that is somehow pruned to be making a lewd gesture.
3. Florida. Not enough reptile mascots in college sports nowadays. Make it eat a crab!
2. Akron. I will never speak one more unkind word against the unnecessary rigamaroles of Signing Day if it means we get to watch a baby kangaroo hop around some sleepy high school library.
1. Georgia Tech. There's still time, Yellow Jackets. Prop up that lackluster harvest with a handful of grubs for your next blue-chipper! The possibilities become even grander upon diving into the lower divisions (baby UC Santa Cruz banana slug, anyone?), and once this kind of thing becomes common practice, the diversion applications are endless. Who's ready to let a flip-flopping kid pick his school by staging a public battle between mascots? Everybody, right?