How much does Signing Day really matter?

Footballs are set out on the field during warm up before the NFL Super Bowl XLIX football game between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – More than 150,000 high school athletes sign a national letter of intent each year on Signing Day, guaranteeing college scholarships worth over $2.7 billion.

While those are big numbers, they represent less than 2 percent of high school athletes competing across the country.

Those that get the offer, football players especially, have a big decision to make. When they should make that decision is debated.

They call it a “hat dance.”

Youngstown State University head football Coach Bo Pelini has another word for it.

“It’s become a bit of a circus,” he said. “I think it’s sending the wrong message to young kids.”

The first Wednesday in February is the first opportunity that college coaches have to officially sign their recruiting classes, and for players, to honor their verbal commitment.

ScoutingOhio.com Founder Mark Porter said being committed doesn’t necessarily mean that you are committed, however.

“It means the college is committed to you, but it’s advantage player right now. It’s always been advantage player,” he said.

College coaches would like some of that leverage. Porter said somewhere between 30 and 50 percent of college football recruits change their mind, sometimes on Signing Day itself.

“Maybe it makes too much sense, I don’t know. Somebody offers you a scholarship, you commit. Why not sign?” Pelini said.

Porter said if Signing Day does end, it will be chaos.

Instead of getting rid of it, the Collegiate Commissioners Association, which runs the National Letter of Intent Program, announced earlier this month that it will add an additional signing period in late December. That 72-hour window, beginning on December 20, will allow players to end the recruiting process and sign early.

While that will ease some of the last-minute frenzy for college coaches, it can’t prevent the pressure they apply on recruits to verbally commit early.

“A lot of times, when you get that first offer, they put pressure on you,” Porter said. “They tell you, ‘Hey, we offered seven linebackers. The first to commit gets the $100,000 scholarship. The other six get nothing.’ So parents will jump on that right away and say, ‘Hey, we’re not fooling around with this process. We want the $100,000. We’re not in a position to lose this scholarship.’ So they commit.”

Nine high school football players from the Valley earned a Division 1 scholarship this year, most of which verbally committed before their senior season. However, they didn’t all go where they initially said they were going.

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