National Signing Day is colossal, chaotic and just downright hysterical. Media coverage has made this day into a spectacle. While it gives these high school athletes some much-deserved recognition and attention, it's also had dark, largely unreported consequences for many of the athletes involved in the process.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with following the recruitment of the top prep athletes in the country, especially as it pertains to one's team, and the passion that fans have for their team is part of what makes the sport so great. But in those instances when following one's team on the recruiting trail turns into direct intervention in the form of violent threats and acts of vandalism directed at high school athletes, there's something wrong with the process.
Kevin Scarbinsky of the Birmingham News reported that Brent Calloway, a recruit from Russellville High School in Russellville, Alabama, has left town to make his college decision. Calloway was an Alabama Crimson Tide recruit early in the process, but switched his verbal commitment to the Auburn Tigers later on, prompting the backlash of Tide fans throughout the state. Calloway, who is just a teenager by the way, has been called a traitor among other names, but Scarbinsky reports that a sign comparing Calloway to Benedict Arnold at a recent Alabama basketball game "was mild compared to the threats and ill wishes Calloway told The Times Daily in Florence he'd received on his Facebook page."
Scarbinsky notes that Calloway is "a high school student, but he didn't attend class the last two days. He's a high school basketball player, but he didn't play in his team's game Monday." He quotes his high school basketball coach, Michael Smith, as saying, "He's not even in Russellville. He'll be back after the signing."
When a young man is out of town to make a major announcement because he doesn't want to face those in his community who are supposed to support him, some people need to take a step back and consider how important the decision of this young man really is in their own lives. I understand how big football is in the South and in Alabama in particular, as well as how closely fans identify with their team, but this is downright wrong.
Scarbinsky went on to point to the obsession that surrounding college football recruiting and how many fans place an inordinate amount of importance on the decisions of seventeen- and eighteen-year-old kids, who in many cases are yet to set foot out of their parents' homes and for the first time in their lives making life-changing decisions. "His life has been turned upside down because too many people who don't have a life have been hanging on his decision," Scarbinsky writes. "He's gone into seclusion because too many people who need a life have been tugging at him and trying to discover or influence his decision." Scarbinsky goes on, "Can you imagine the mind of a person who would criticize a teenager, let alone threaten him, because he wanted to play college football here rather than there? Sadly, if you follow recruiting you can."
If you have ten minutes and want to see for yourself the ridiculous amount of importance that recruiting nuts place on the decisions of teenage boys, check out a team-dedicated recruiting message board. Any one of them. You'll never see as much mud-slinging, poo-flinging and insanity anywhere else on the net. One of the many absurdities on these forums is amount of 'inside sources'—whom I suspect are a collection of passersby and college students in the vicinity of college athletic offices and random athletic department employees who have nothing to do with the recruiting process—that members of the boards tout. Scarbinsky is right, some of these nuts need to get a life outside of hanging on the every word, movement and breath that these high school students take.
Such obsession surrounding the recruitment process is not relegated solely to the state of Alabama or Tide fans in particular, and to generalize that all of those who follow the recruitment process are nuts and obsessive, would not be fair, of course, but there are certainly quite a few.
In the end, Calloway switched his commitment back to Alabama on Signing Day, where the same fans who spoke out against Calloway up to and including this morning because of his decision to switch his verbal commitment to Auburn will now applaud him and cheer for him on Saturday afternoons in Bryant-Denny Stadium. They got what they wanted and we hope that Calloway did, too.
Now if you will excuse me, I have to get back to ESPNU's round-the-clock coverage of National Signing Day to validate the spectacle.
Danny Hobrock, a sports journalist covering NCAA Football and MLB is the editor of our college football content. His work for Xtra Point Football has garnered national attention and is critically acclaimed. You may email Danny directly @ [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @ DannyHobrock
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