Today is a day that as a college football fan I have long loathed. Years back, I soured on National Signing Day as a ridiculous spectacle that has taken everything that is right about college athletics (the excitement of signing on to play a sport at the institution where you will also get your education) and made it into an "all about me" show where grown adults fawn over the decisions of 17 year old kids on national television.
On top of my disdain for the spectacle, I have been a UVA fan for far too long to get too excited about recruits as I feel the real difference is determined once a player has years to develop. I read SBNation's piece on "why recruiting matters," and it does a great job at showing that at the top end of college football, yes recruiting matters. But what it fails to point out is the variation of results in that second to third tier of teams, where I feel recruiting matters very little (and while I have no data to back this up, I haven't seen anything to prove otherwise). I think it also discounts the fact that of the 10-15 teams that were profiled with a strong correlation between recruiting and on-field success, the majority (all but Stanford and Ole Miss) are the historical powerhouses of college football, and I bet if we were to take a look at this analysis over the last 10-15 years, we would probably find the same names. The only exceptions being times in which those powerhouses had coaching issues (e.g. Alabama before Nick Saban, USC over the last couple years, Michigan before Jim Harbaugh, etc.). So I ask, is it that recruiting is fueling on-field success, or has historic on-field success built brand names that has sustained recruiting?
But then last week, I watched a video of the new UVA coaching staff sledding down the hill at Scott Stadium (the video was taken down shortly after it was released, so I was glad I saw it). Then this morning, the staff (and current players) released a series of videos that would serve as a primer to today's festivities. I was intrigued.
Then I read this piece by Streaking the Lawn's Paul Wiley and said, "hey, this National Signing Day thing isn't so bad."
Paul points out that today is College Football's "Spring." The day when we can be excited about our prospects without having to endure the potential disappointed by the time the weekend comes. For me, this "spring" is less about the individual players or the stars by their names, but more about the approach this staff is taking to the program's future. Sure Devante Cross, may be the QB of the future. He may not be. But the fact that the staff was intentional about targeting him is critical.
But what stands out most, and the biggest reason for my interest today, is the excitement of the coaches. Today isn't about the 2016 class, it's about the 2016 team, the 2017 class, and the 2018 class. These coaches are having fun, they are showing the University in a positive light, and they are showing how excited they are to be here. Hopefully, that combined with the message they are sending privately will be what it takes to help the guys already in house and the guys of the future realize the success we all know Virginia football can have.
So, will I be glued to ESPNU today watching a 17 year old choose between hats on a table while the entire self-worth of residents of the southern United States hangs in the balance? No. Am I looking forward to next year's All America Bowl where between every snap we get to hear a kid's decision, only to have one of his parents stomp off like a petulant child because the kid made a different choice than the one they were expecting? No.
But I will be excited about UVA. Excited for the kids that are making the decision to attend the University I love so dear, and on top of that play football for a program that as far as initial indications are concerned we can all be proud of.