The fax machine used to be the MVP of college football’s National Signing Day. Colleges would mail National Letters of Intent out to high school players, and those players would — if the school was lucky — sign them and fax them in. The exchange has always happened over some form of mail, because coaches can’t be present when a recruit signs. The NLI process has evolved over the years, but the fax has long played a role.
The beeping sound the fax machine made when Johnny Recruit sent his NLI in became just as exciting as the cha-ching sound of a cash register. The fax beep became such an understood Signing Day anthem that Florida turned its machine into an instrument. There was even an SEC fax machine scandal at one point, the true mark of a college football mainstay.
The logistics of faxing are somewhat foreign to me, because I was born in 1994. I don’t think I have ever sent a fax. I gather it’s like if a phone and a copy machine made a child together.
Today’s recruits were born after 2000, generally, and many of them have never sent faxes either.
Rumors of faxes’ demise have been greatly exaggerated, but at the same time, many people prefer email, including some recruits. Then-Rice coach David Baliff told the Houston Chronicle in 2017 that 15 of 18 signees filed digitally, not by fax, and that’d become a pretty common ratio nationwide in recent years.
“You used to huddle by that fax machine,” Bailiff said. “You didn’t know what was coming next. Now you get all the emails at once, and a lot of the excitement is taken away.
”We used to say, ‘Wow, we got so-and-so’s fax,’ and we would celebrate, and then we would run out of fax paper. We don’t have those issues anymore.”
There’s no national data on NLIs sent via fax and email this year (or any other, as far as I know), but at some places, faxes are on the outs.
Wow, and there you have it: Alabama declaring its fax machine dead as a method of football NLI delivery. At least it lived a good life.
There are really only three reasons for a recruit to fax an NLI in the year 2018:
- They’re signing in, like, a high school gym, and there’s a fax machine right down the hall, and someone else offers to take care of the faxing for them.
- They’re really sentimental about fax machines, for some reason.
- A close family member has invested a huge amount of money in the fax industry and is desperate to keep it alive.
Otherwise, most of today’s youths would rather just sign the NLI, scan it, and email it. There are numerous good iPhone apps for scanning. I paid $4.99 for one, I think, and love it. And I didn’t have to pay for a real fax machine or scanner and then lug it around. It rules.