By Pete Moye’
And so comes and goes the spectacle that is National Signing Day, the first introduction that departing high school seniors have to the pageantry that is college athletics, most notably college football.
A day that visually portrays the culmination of hard work via the crowning of a hat, donning of a sweater or when these players autograph their John Hancock on a Letter of Intent.
But lost in all the jubilee is the tremendous expectations these kids must face upon signing. Rather than offering a kid a chance to perform on some of the greatest venues in all of sports, these big programs and small alike are making investments in these kids.
This is Nick Saban signing three consecutive No. 1 recruiting classes to keep his spot at the top of the mountain in Tuscaloosa at the University of Alabama. It is Jimbo Fisher attempted to replace a legend at Florida State, or even Steve Sarkisian making his second first impression with a decent class in Southern California for the Trojans.
With tremendous expectations like those, in addition to being ranked a four or five star recruit by ESPN how is an 18-year-kid who had to ask to go to the bathroom only three months ago really supposed to have a fighting chance?
Now there are tremendous cases where this has worked without any flaws to its design. However, amid an era where athletes are being take advantage of, the spectacle created is only another possible obstacle.
A segment of the NCAA’s core values reads that its purpose is “to integrate intercollegiate athletics into higher education so that the educational experience of the student-athlete is paramount.”
If the most important thing according to the NCAA is to make sure the student-athlete’s education experience then why isn’t this scholarship earned by the student even guaranteed?
On average, a Div. 1 scholarship is worth about $25,000 a year. So a student who plans to sign is looking at 100,000 over a four-year period. But what isn’t heavily publicized is “Rule 3A” of the NLI which reads “The terms of the NLI shall be satisfied if I attend … for an academic year” which means the scholarship is only actually valid for a year.
Some conferences have made these scholarships option for the entire four years but there are not mandatory. Current rules say athletes must be notified whether their scholarships will be renewed by July 1 of the next academic year.
Therefore, if a coach decided after the season that he or she no longer wants that student-athlete, then they are allowed to retract the scholarship.
In what ways does that keep the educational experience paramount? None.
But rather than further divulge into the financial aspects of the situation or even get into how these players are virtually exploited by these universities, we are still only one day into the current signing period. Let’s focus on the now of the situation.
Countless athletes across the nation have signed NLIs. After months, even years of recruiting, they finally know their destination for next fall semester.
They are expected to pocket the experience of being on ESPN and in their hometown newspapers and focus the next day in American Literature.
After these well-heralded athletes have been sought out by possibly hundreds of coaches through their tenure in high school, they are expected to virtually forget about this spectacular experience for another five months and focus on classes.
It is a huge distraction.
The NLI program was created in 1964 by seven conference sin attempted to “curb recruiting excess” and that was in a time before the social media addictions of Twitter and Facebook. It has since evolved from the seven conferences participating to more than 600 participants.
Now, the problem has returned and even exploded from what it was designed to prevent.
National Signing Day needs to be moved from the first week of February to at least the third week of June. Allow these student-athletes to focus on school, get through their midterms, finals and enjoy graduation.
Give players a chance to turn 18 and avoid situations faced like one by running back Alex Collins whose mother stole his NLI because she didn’t agree with his decision to commit to the University of Arkansas.
Or the national spurn Landon Collins and his younger brother Gerald Willis III gave their mother April Justin two years apart when the older Collins chose to commit to Alabama in 2012 and Willis this year with the Florida Gators, against their mother’s wish to attend hometown LSU.
These players should get an opportunity to focus on high school before there are thrown into the world of college athletics. If nothing else, they’ve earned it.
Pete Moye’ is a junior majoring in communication, you may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.