In time, all things will change. From the most important things in life to something as meaningless as college football’s National Signing Day — there’s no getting around the natural erosion and replacement that happens every single year. If you’ve followed college football and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish over the last two or three decades — you know this to be true.
We are five days away from Christmas, and tomorrow is the first signing day of the early period. If we travelled back in time to 2008, that statement alone would be enough to blow the minds of fans — never mind the fact that we have a flying DeLorean and are wearing a puffer vest. What we are experiencing right now is something that is truly different than what we had previously been used to for so many years.
For decades, National Signing Day came on the first Wednesday of February. While that day is still there as the first day of the last period of signings, we now have the early period in December which signs over 85% of the recruits.
For decades, fans knew who the freshmen were when they opened up the game program and looked up and down the roster. Notre Dame fans might remember when Blue and Gold Illustrated was just a news magazine, and they would have recruiting coverage throughout the year — although on a much smaller scale than now. There was also Tom Lemming and his 900 number hotline if you had a few bucks to spend. Then came along the internet and Rivals and OH MY GOD we now have a recruiting coverage industry that is almost as big as the sport itself. This is also when the “hats on a table” and shady recruiting “journalists” thing mutated and became a sideshow of epic proportions.
For decades, players had to sit out a year (unless they had an NCAA waiver) if they transferred to another school. And a lot of those times they weren’t given releases to transfer for certain schools. A few years ago the NCAA started to allow graduate transfers to happen without the year wait provided that the school they transferred to had a grad program that wasn’t offered at the previous school — and then that lightened up to whatever. Now, players can transfer during a large window of the year without any penalty at all.
For decades, being a bagman for schools was a shady undertaking that would help create tarnished reputations and provided inaccurate portrayals of a player’s character. Now, the bagman — although still shady af — is part of the recruiting process, and accepted as the norm throughout most of college football.
An easier way to say all of that is that from 1960-2000, college football recruiting was one thing, and then it was another thing until about 2016, and then over the last 5 years the massive changes come at an annual pace. It’s beyond crazy — it’s 1.21 gigawatts crazy.
To be honest, it might be better if the entire process was the same — but with no one covering it as a daily (edit: hourly) updated venture. Same system and rules as today, but no one cared. Now, that’s never going to happen, but neither is time travel and we talk about that all the time, Einstein.
Since we can’t change what has been constantly changing over the decades, the one thing we can do is appreciate the recruits that do choose to come to Notre Dame. Our obsession with 5-Stars and championships has merit for sure, but it still feels wrong to overshadow the future heroes of the program. This signing day will be like all the others in that there will be stars and there will be busts — and that’s because no one has a friggin DeLorean (I feel that Michael J. Fox really screwed up my entire way of looking at the world).
So yeah... here comes another National Signing Day which was different than last year, and I promise you will be much different than the one we get in five years. Everything changes, and regardless of if that change is good or bad or whatever, it’s what we have for college football until the Big 10 and the SEC split away from the NCAA — but that’s a story for another day.