Feb. 4 was another National Signing Day for hotshot college football recruits across the country. This day marks the athlete’s official scholarship commitment and declaration of where they will learn to play college football while purportedly becoming a student athlete at a college or university.
Thanks to this country’s hopeless football addiction and blanket sports-media coverage, the event has become a ridiculous spectacle. Though the day is full of pomp for the athletes and their families — and these young men deserve attention for reaching the lofty goal of earning an athletic scholarship — it is also their unofficial introduction into the exploitative college-football system and its corrupt oversight organization, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
With the hegemony of ESPN and the explosion of sports-media outlets, these announcements have become big events for athletes and their families, high schools and colleges or universities they choose to attend and play for. But lurking in the shadows after the bright lights of the television cameras are turned off and the microphones are put away is a darker story that is paid much less attention.
Let’s start with the fact that it’s crazy to pay so much attention to the decisions of 18-year-olds, I mean, why do people even care? The answer is quite simple, really: Money.
Recruiting day is just another step in the corrupt process of not compensating the players, the workers off whose sweat hundreds of millions of dollars are made. Unfortunately for the athletes, until this model is changed into a more European-style academy system, the charade will continue. People care and tune in because the announcement of signing a player or top recruiting class is one step in top college football programs’ quest to increase revenue and attention paid toward them though football. Better players equal more wins, and more victories leads to better bowl games with higher cash payouts to the universities.
The head coaches get publicity by announcing top recruits, the athletic director and college president get atta-boys for bringing in that beefy sack machine, but once the cameras go off, the athletes are left to fend for themselves in a system that will credit everyone except them.
Most of these young men enter into this system unwitting of what they are getting into. It’s also odd so much attention is paid to their choices when many have begun flipping their decisions many times over, something that had been taboo in years past. It should really be no surprise, they are only teenagers after all. Following athlete’s oral commitments to other schools, the vagabond head coach may have left for a bigger and better job or in the interim, the school may have been placed under NCAA sanctions.
So many young athletes have begun flipping that stats on it have been birthed online by the Atlanta Journal Constitution. One recruit, a defensive lineman from Georgia committed to South Carolina, de-committed, re-committed and de-committed again, only to finally sign with Louisiana State University. Then there was the curious case of quarterback Deondre Francois, who seems to have tweeted that he was de-committing from Florida State University, only to send a following tweet saying his account was hacked.
Analyst Mike Farrell of Rivals.com, a website that tracks the recruiting of top athletes, told The Washington Post that he thinks pressure from coaches to secure early commitments has increased the flipping phenomenon.
It’s all in the name of the glory of the program, pumping up it up for the next top-recruiting class so coaches can win, get bigger salaries and move on to the next job, where the process begins all over again. Sadly, this is the corrupt nature of college athletics run by the sleazy NCAA.
The student-athlete arrangement is a ridiculous and exploitative model that enriches coaches, television executives, athletic directors and really anyone other than the athletes themselves, and it should be stopped. These young people are being deceived by the flashing lights and attention paid to them. Instead of worrying about what college to choose, stroking their ego or waiting with bated breath for an 18-year-old to decide what university they will become a so-called student athlete at, we should be examining what undergirds the entire athletic system.
There is just way too much hoopla and attention paid to their decisions, and it’s just the first of many potential exploitations they’ll face in their college careers. If all goes according to plan, these men will play in stadiums in front of thousands of fans on college football Saturdays. That’s the dream, to play on Saturdays and maybe even on Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays in the National Football League someday.
And good for them, these young men have reached the goal through hard work and their families’ sacrifices, most do not even get that far, so they deserve all respect due. That incredible amount of hard work and dedication to what is their chosen craft should be celebrated — but announcements about going to college to learn to play football, the attention paid to the declarations and the system that supports the entire corrupt arrangement makes an even bigger mockery of an already exploitative system.
Noah Zuss is a reporter for TheBlot Magazine.