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Explaining National Signing Day to an Englishman

It's a real life transcript of a conversation with Tom in Essex, England. Tom likes soccer and thinks America is nuts. He just doesn't get it.

Hot dogs, Apple Pie, and National Signing Day
Hot dogs, Apple Pie, and National Signing Day
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

(Tom from Essex): "Why is Snoop Dog on ESPN with his son?"

It's National Signing Day! It's the day we watch high school seniors decide where they will play football in college. Snoop Dog's son is a top 10 receiver, and he chose UCLA!


Well, UCLA got their guy. You have to watch! You need to know who snagged the next Tebow, Winston or Mariota, don't you?

"I guess. How can you tell though? Are all of these guys going to the NFL? If not, why are they on ESPN already?"

Well, let's start with the premise that this entire process is awesome and has so many interesting moving parts its tough to consume whole. With so much money, so many wins, and young men's educations on the line, it's tough to weed through the madness. But I think I can help make sense of it.

Each high school football player being sought after by the big time college programs gets assigned a "star rating." Star ratings range from 1-5, 5 being your can't-miss-superstars of tomorrow. Star ratings are allocated based on current skill and projected skill by "experts" on the matter.


No, not the actual coaches who evaluate the athletes with real skin in the game. Who cares what they think?. These stars come from the real experts who watch high school ball for a living. But obviously they can't watch all the games, so only players who happen to live in specific "hot beds" get noticed by the experts. So if your kid doesn't live in a hot bed, you better pay a good chunk of money to a recruiting service that will help him get noticed, thus earning a star rating.

"Got it. Star ratings. Then what?"

Good. So let's talk about who these experts work for. There are four major recruiting websites that keep us up to the minute on star ratings, player intent, etc: ESPN,,, and

Each site uses a different formula and employs different experts, so the star ratings don't always line up.Your son may be the #3 defensive end on, but only the #6 defensive end on ESPN. This generally doesn't matter because the star ratings are strictly for you, the audience. So don't worry about the inconsistencies, you'll still get a pretty decent idea of what kinda player your school is recruiting by browsing the sites.

"So then the big day comes..."

Then National Signing Day happens! Colin Cowherd's simulcast gets preempted, which stinks, but it's worth it! Signing Day requires a sense of urgency. Rece Davis helps a panel of experts analyze those cutaways to makeshift podiums across the country.

At that point, the star rated high school seniors select baseball caps to wear to school for the day. It is tense. I still have a pit in my stomach from this morning! You can tell it matters because assistant coaches employed by baseball-cap-contest-winning schools chest bump one another.


They go their guy!

"Sounds exploitative! So who WON signing day?!"

A great question. And for this you'll have to turn back to those four sites. They're going to give you school rankings based on the commitments. Or you could turn your TV to ESPN. They're more than ready to tell you their rankings at any possible turn so we can start getting pumped for big games next Fall.

"So Alabama is #1. Or USC. I guess it depends... how are these rankings formulated?"

Another great question. seems to have a pretty straightforward breakdown, so let's give that site a shot. They present the stats for the total number of recruits, number of 5 star, 4 star, and 3 star players, the average star rating, and total points.

"Total points?"

Points are arbitrarily assigned to schools based on a number of factors. They've provided an explanation, but because the points stem from a formula that relies on arbitrary data produced solely by themselves, I'd guess the points formula can be manipulated to say whatever they want it to say. Let's look at the number of good players instead.

"Total points does come across pretty subjective. I see that FSU has a higher star average and more 5 star commits than Alabama and USC, but they're third?"

Florida State's class is more top heavy than their peers, but they also have six fewer commits than USC and four fewer than Alabama, effecting their total points, therefore lowering their ranking. But the more you dive into it the foggier it becomes

Let's compare the rankings of Florida and Ole Miss. Florida, you'll note, has two 5-star commits and five 4-star. These are the players projected to make a more immediate impact and become All-SEC players. Ole Miss, on the other hand, has zero 5 star and six 4 star commits. Yet the Rebs are two spots and 104 points ahead of the Gators. I'm not sure this all makes sense. Who's class would you rather have?

I guess that depends on the type of players the recruits are and the system my team runs.

Very true. To further your point, we should look at Oregon. The 2014 PAC12 champions, Rose Bowl winner, and national runners-up do not have a 2015 commit with a 5 star rating. They have taken in only four commits with 5 star ratings since 2010 (one of whom spent the majority of his career at Baylor). Despite the lack of "talented" recruits, the Ducks have managed 60 wins since 2010 (to Alabama's 58), averaging precisely 12 wins per season.

"So what gives?"

Perhaps instead of recruiting based on star rating, Oregon is recruiting to fit its system or fill needs left by graduation and transfers. Or maybe the star ratings are completely wrong, and the coaches who actually have a need to get their evaluations correct are doing their job and correctly evaluating the players.

"Is there a stat column for that on the website? Also, I'm still not sure who WON signing day?"

The winner of signing day? Recruiting services and websites, ESPNU, and the young men who had their 15 minutes in the sun.

"And the losers?"

Well, definitely not us. We definitely aren't losers for consuming this like crack. Signing Day is great and you better not say anything bad about it.

"I think I've come up with a way to make this simpler. What if, instead of evaluating players like cattle ranchers at an exploitative meat market, players were evaluated once they've done something on the field?"

Why? How would anyone make money off this? What would the biased, unchecked, recruiting sites and services do all year? How would we know who WON signing day?

"The head coach could present the class he signed in a humble, straightforward manner. I'd like to see him identifying what role he sees each new member filling on the team and discussing strengths and weaknesses. Then real experts could evaluate from there. Even better, the new students could then stand with their new classmates and thank the coach for the privilege of free school and announce what they plan on studying in the coming term."

Lol. Englishmen... y'all just don't get it.