Fax Cams, And Why National Signing Day is College Football's Christmas Eve

With all due respect to Dan Shanoff: National Signing Day, that holiest of the unholy days of snake oil wholesaling in the college football offseason, is not Christmas. It's Christmas Eve. No one sits around watching presents on Christmas morning. But, given the existence of the Alabama and Washington "fax cams" (U-Dub's is embedded below, but good luck watching it: I get a message saying "the maximum number of viewers has been reached), I think it's fair to say that the fervor over athletic young men choosing colleges leads many to figure out just how to steal looks at the tree from different angles, or shake the presents. 

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The idea of trying to find that last bit of info isn't new; FanHouse has a first-person account from recruiting obsessive Clay Travis, but the piece by Jim Henry on pre-Internet recruiting is even scarier. He talks to Dave Stirt, who ran one of the first recruiting services to rise from the primordial slime, about Signing Day in 1990.

⇥New head coach Steve Spurrier had a solid, but not great, first recruiting class, signing Terry Dean, Aubrey Hill and Harrison Houston, among a group of 19 players.
⇥But Stirt did have a great day. ⇥⇥⇥⇥

⇥Take a guess how many fans dialed in? ⇥One thousand? Three thousand? Five thousand?⇥

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⇥Guess again.⇥

⇥

⇥"We got over 10,000 phone calls," Stirt said.⇥

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⇥Cha-ching -- that resulted in approximately $35,000 in revenue in one day.⇥

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⇥"That was the start of the 900 recruiting industry," Stirt said. â‡¥

And now there are message boards, blogs, all-day ESPN recruiting shows, and cameras set up to observe fax machines. But for what? A chance to see some names on paper?

Much like baseball's hot stove season or the first week of NBA free agency, the recruiting season is a period where every team can win based on potential and hype. These young men are not yet who they will be in college, have never faced collegiate competition, and in many ways are question marks until the moment they step on their school's field in uniform in the fall. They're still presents, unopened ones, with bows and color-coordinated wrapping paper.

It is the fall when Christmas comes, and everything is fully unveiled. Schools get to play with their toys, and instead of waiting for faxes, fans can see what Santa brought. 

Christmas Eve is great because it seems like anything can be in those boxes and bags. And college football fans, optimists all, can talk themselves into thinking any constellation of young men with stars by their names assembled on Signing Day can deliver a team to the promised land.

National Signing Day is Christmas Eve: A day when the gifts are in sight, but the wait never seems longer.

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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