Imagine if the nation decided collectively to split Independence Day into two national holidays. There’d still be a Fourth of July, but we’d also have an Eleventh of May. Which day would you choose for your fireworks display? Which one would have the dazzling pyrotechnics and which one would get the soggy bottle rockets?
That’s what the new early Signing Day felt like on Wednesday — a dampened edition of the usual extravaganza. A college football tradition that has evolved into something quite spectacular over the course of the last 35 years was split in two, and the two halves are now placed on a pair of dates that aren’t far enough apart to make either one seem special.
In college basketball, where the early signing is predominant, the signing dates are six months apart and the late period is generally used to fill “needs,” often from the bustling grad-transfer market. Perhaps the new football system will evolve over time to put the “early” period in August, before the start of the regular seasons for colleges and high schools. This idea makes sense, so it probably stands about as much chance as a mouse at a cat convention. A preseason date would, however, alleviate some of Nick Saban’s concerns, which he has aired loudly and frequently in recent weeks. His disdain for the early period is largely based on the massive double-duty workload for staffs that are simultaneously trying to recruit and to prepare for meaningful postseason play. (Fairness compels the observation that it didn’t seem to do much to slow down Clemson and Georgia on Wednesday.) More importantly, it would actually benefit those prospects who want to end the recruiting circus and enjoy their final high school season. Those were supposedly the ones that the rule was designed for in the first place.
On top of that, Alabama’s Signing Day wasn’t the usual cause for celebration. It wasn’t bad, by any means. It merited all the adjectives that you’d apply to a solvent business. It was solid. It met needs. It probably has a nice personality. It contained its share of star power, especially when the commitments of two much-needed defensive linemen, Christian Barmore and Eyabi Onama, rolled in from the Atlantic seaboard. But Alabama fans and national observers alike are used to Crimson Tide dominance on Signing Day. This year, the accolades, according to 247 Sports rankings, belonged to Georgia (which had a monster day) and Clemson and, to a certain degree, Ohio State. Saban pointed out that there are still eight spots available for February and the Alabama class may nudge its way even further up the rankings. But a day that’s usually sunshine and celebrations was somewhat subdued, which isn’t the word that’s usually used in Tuscaloosa on Signing Day, even if it is just Signing Day 1.0.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.