It's the Least Wonderful Day of the Year


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I'm just going to come out and say it: I hate Signing Day.

The anticipation, the all-day ESPN coverage, the 11th hour faxes. I despise it all.

I spent Wednesday afternoon listening to Jeff Tedford narrate tape of the 2011 Cal football recruiting class. And while that tape was impressive, I went to my high school's football games. A superior athlete better be able to desecrate an offensive line of 170-pounders.

Fans and TV commentators make such a big to-do about recruiting rankings and which team has the most five-stars. Signing Day is the most overrated day of the year, and here's why: The "success" of a recruiting class is predicated on the subjective data from a few meaningless websites.

No man sitting in front of his computer entering stars into a ranking system can truly calculate the success of an athlete. Everyone at this level looks good on tape. Maybe one jumps a little higher, so he gets an extra star. Maybe he's a little too short, so he loses one.

A player is not just his height, his weight, his 40 time. He is his personality, his habits and his ability to rise to the collegiate level.

Joe Fan sitting at home poring over all year long might feel like he knows more than anyone in the world, but recruiting is not a science and Signing Day doesn't determine who will win the national championship.

There are too many variables for anyone to comfortably foresee collegiate success. Sure, Bob the Quarterback was the boss at running his high school's offense. But when the playbook quadruples and he has to know what everyone else on the field is doing, it isn't as easy.

Beyond the field, there's life. For some, poor academics will keep them off the field, regardless of their physical skills. For others, the sweet, sweet siren song of partying all the time will ring constantly in their ears. Most 17-year-olds don't know who they are yet - ESPN sure as hell doesn't either.

The starting quarterbacks in this Sunday's Super Bowl could tell you as much.

Ben Roethlisberger was a backup in high school and a nobody when he enrolled at Miami of Ohio. In three years, he set nearly every major school record at quarterback. In the NFL, he was the Offensive Rookie of the Year. He wears two championship rings.

The story of Aaron Rodgers is even more familiar to Cal fans. Tedford found him by chance, laboring to get noticed at Butte Community College, on a recruiting trip to check out tight end Garrett Cross. Unheralded and anonymous then, Rodgers now holds the record for the highest career passer rating in NFL history.

Think of some of Cal's best over the last few years. Center Alex Mack, a Pro Bowler with the Browns, was a two-star recruit. Running back Justin Forsett was too. So was safety Thomas DeCoud. Now, he's a fan favorite and starter for the Atlanta Falcons. Coming out of high school, linebacker Desmond Bishop wasn't on anyone's radar; he went to City College of San Francisco before catching Cal's eye.

This is not to say Cal fans can't be excited about the Bears' catch. To have as miserable a season as they did and still recruit well says a lot (mostly about Tosh Lupoi). But don't jump for joy because you think the program is saved. Signing Day is just another square on the calendar.

Watching those players develop, for better or for worse, is the real part of football. And that comes much later.


Ignore the all-day ESPN coverage and 11th-hour faxes with Katie at [email protected]

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