As National Signing Day continues to get bigger — with a daylong marathon of television coverage, stories galore and recruiting websites popping up faster than you can say, “Who do you model your game after?” — there’s an opportunity to improve it. After all, we live in an age of rapid innovation; rush to buy an iPhone 5s, and the iPhone 7 is probably already coming down the pipe. But unfortunately, Signing Day hasn’t really kept pace with the times.
There are a lot of things that could be done differently, and I'm here to help. Here are 10 ways to make National Signing Day better than ever before.
• Get rid of fax machines. Look, I'm not saying do away with them completely. Even a fax machine deserves a Twitter account and a nice retirement home in Boca. But we're technologically past the point of faxing National Letters of Intent, and we probably have been for the better part of a decade now. Snapchatting NLIs might leave the door open to some questionable antics, and there's no way school administrators could get screengrabs in time. Scanning is pretty lame. So here's my proposed solution: Commit with a nice, classy picture message. Dress it up with a sepia filter. Post it to Instagram. And if we need to get professional, there's always Dropbox, Google Drive or Evernote.
• Speaking of apps ... It's time to step up the recruiting game completely. There are better uses of coaches' time than occasionally dropping by high school basketball games or playing phone tag with a prospect. Recruiting needs its own version of Tinder. Players sign on and swipe through programs one by one. Find a match, hit the heart or like button. Coaches do the same. Pictures, highlights and measurables are listed for recruits. Records, facilities and quick sales pitches for teams. Once there's a match the real recruiting begins. Let's streamline the process. Let's revolutionize the way we view recruiting.
• Bring in more snacks. There's no situation that can't be improved with snacks. When schools have their big pep rallies, order a bunch of pizzas, or get #TeamCake and #TeamPie involved. Food is a party and a party is food. There's a whole realm of possibilities that could be introduced if players committed by picking foods native to the area where they'll be going to school. It's more creative than choosing hats, and it's a lot more delicious. Taking your talents to Maryland? Dive into that crab dip; you earned it, man. Coming to Columbus? Eat a whole tray of buckeyes. (The chocolate kind, even though real buckeyes aren't technically poisonous. Nobody has time to soak them, let them dry and bake them to get the tannic acid out.) Making your way to Munich? Delicious soft pretzel for everybody.
• Honestly, it's time to retire picking hats in general. We can do better. I propose recruits announce with to-scale models of their new school's most famous architectural landmark. There's always Lite-Brite and Speak & Spell, too. Kids have imaginations. They can do anything.
All I know is that picking hats is over.
• Actually make announcements on time. NBCSN was getting into a horrible habit earlier in the 2013-14 recruiting cycle. A player was doing a simulcast on the network and let everyone know he was declaring at noon. Everyone watching the broadcast, however, was held hostage until 12:40 p.m. or so. Efficiency is the key to a healthy lifestyle. We are all going to be in a tizzy come Wednesday. Make life easier on us. If an announcement is going to happen at 2:21 p.m., say it's going to happen at 2:21. Think of National Signing Day like a train schedule. Unless a player is actually experiencing a weather delay (something that is very likely), there's no excuse for milking a few more minutes out of everyone. Trust me, we'll all appreciate you more if you are up front.
• It's time for more coach dancing. I'll be honest: I haven't thought this concept all the way through yet. I'm still working on it. But I've got a pretty good feeling about it. Especially if it leads to more moments like this:
Mark Dantonio talked about dancing with his Michigan State team with Mike Griffith of MLive.com in November:
"I've always been comfortable with myself, even if I don't smile that much,'' Dantonio said. "Our players did it, loved it. We don't do it for any other reason but to celebrate with ourselves. Don't do it for show, for a camera. We do it for ourselves.''
If Dantonio is comfortable dancing, every coach should be. Signing Day and dancing. Get on it, guys.
• Change the venue. No more high school gyms. They're boring. They're kind of ugly. The lighting is usually awful. If a recruit lives in a warm weather city, take the ceremony outside. Natural light makes everyone look better. If a prospect is stuck in Michigan, host it in the auditorium and use props and set pieces from productions put on by the drama club. Y'all can't tell me that the occasion of a recruit announcing his intent to play for Notre Dame wouldn't be more exciting if it included the jury boxes from the January run of Inherit the Wind.
• Spice up the signatures. Hopefully these kids have been practicing. Hang upside down and sign with an astronaut pen. Grab one of those comically large pencils that people can win at Six Flags. Take a calligraphy class and bust out a quill and an ink pot. The actual signature doesn't get enough play. It's time to put the signing back in Signing Day.
• Let coaches talk about kids in more specific terms. I know this is an NCAA rule. It just doesn't serve any real purpose. Coaches can mention "a pretty good player in Georgia" or use extra careful language so that everyone knows which recruits they're referring to before those recruits officially sign. Then, the second coaches have secured their whole class, they'll list off players like résumé bullet points. There's no spark to it, and we're left with a bunch of "121 tackles, honor society, active in the community, great family, dad's a pretty good baseball player" stuff. If coaches could (gasp!) talk about their grayshirts or the guys on their recruiting board, we might get a little more honest and genuine sentiment. Writers can have a better clue what's going on, and fans will know better than to expect every three-star prospect to be an unheralded gem who will turn into an all-conference selection by his junior year. • Use a Sorting Hat. I'm just saying. It worked for Hogwarts. It could very well be the future of Signing Day.