Signing Day Still A Big Deal

With an early signing day taking away some of the big names in football, you might not think the traditional signing day of the first Wednesday in February might not be as big.

Think again.

It’s become a “thing” and it’s not going away anytime soon. As a celebration of all high school athletes who will play at the next level, National Signing Day has gone from a football-centric day to a day that every sport is represented.

In St. Johns County alone, Ponte Vedra and Creekside High Schools will announce 48 signees. At least 25 schools will have signing ceremonies on Wednesday starting early at 8AM before school at Atlantic Coast and Raines to Bartram Trail finishing up after school at 3:15.

Last year, Emily Root of Providence signed to play golf at the United States Naval Academy. Wednesday, her sister Amelia will sign to join her at Annapolis from Atlantic Coast. Root is one of two golfers from AC who helped the Stingrays win a state championship for the first time in 2018.

Both girls and boys soccer will be represented throughout the day, starting at Bolles where four players will advance to the next level on the pitch.

Numerous football players signed during the early signing period in December so they could get to school this semester and participate in spring practice. But the competition for the guys who haven’t signed yet is intense. Gus Bradley’s son Carter will play at Toledo and the Jaguars Special Teams assistant Mike Mallory will see his son Will, a highly sought after tight end, sign with the Miami Hurricanes.

Looking to fill out their classes, the major schools are still out their, pitching, recruiting and beating the bushes for the best talent.

“Those guys who haven’t signed will have a lot of choices,” Florida Head Coach Dan Mullen said on Wednesday. “We’ll be in a lot of those battles.

Getting to the National Championship game raised Georgia’s profile, but Kirby Smart says there’s no resting now. “The guys that are left are targeted by the all the top programs. So there’s some guys we still have to go after. You can’t say, ‘Relax, we’re done.’ We’ve still got work to do.”

“The guys are getting used to us and we’re getting used to them,” FSU’s new head coach Willie Taggart said in advance of signing his first Seminoles class. “They have to get to know who we are.”

The major schools will announce their classes in the mid-afternoon. We’ll have full coverage here on throughout the day and summary coverage on News4Jax on Channel 4 starting at 5pm.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris -

Signing Day is now HUGE!

Plenty of things have changed when it comes to National Signing Day. First of all, there wasn’t even a National Signing Day and nobody knew anything about recruiting except for a couple of reporters and every college coach in the country. Most fans didn’t know and didn’t much care either. Up until about 50 years ago, if you lived in Florida and you were a good football player, you were going to Florida. There was a color barrier in the South, so the civil rights movement integrated schools and football teams alike. Players whose only option had been historically black colleges now had other choices.

As college football grew, Florida State and Miami started to take their share of fringe players but the Gators had the run of the state. A few guys went to Georgia from North Florida and some from the Panhandle headed to Alabama or Auburn. And Notre Dame had their pick. With no limit on scholarships, Bear Bryant, Ara Parsegian and others perfected the scenario of recruiting all of the best players in they could. If they could get the ten best quarterbacks, they’d take them all and play one, ensuring the nine others didn’t go somewhere else and try to beat him. The NCAA started to restrict the number of scholarships allowed in 1973 and with all of the blue-chip athletes coming out of the state of Florida the Gators, Hurricanes and Seminoles couldn’t accommodate them all so they started going elsewhere.

But things started to change as television expanded a school’s appeal. With games on Saturday afternoon nationwide, everybody knew about the Crimson Tide and the Trojans of USC, Texas, Michigan and Ohio State. Then regional broadcasts made different schools, closer to home a reality. But as the money expanded and coaches like Bobby Bowden and Howard Schnellenberger moved into the state, recruiting became the lifeblood of every program. Bowden made the Seminoles a national presence and brought players in from all over. Schnellenberger drew a line from Daytona to Tampa and called anything south of that the “State of Miami.” He knew the level of talent in the state and declared everybody the property of the Hurricanes.

In 1990 when Florida hired Steve Spurrier, he said at his opening press conference that winning the recruiting battle in the state was paramount to any success the Gators might have. Vince Dooley used the Bulldogs appearance in Jacksonville every year to keep Georgia’s presence in the minds of local coaches and players.

Cable television diversified where players started going and as more and more schools ramped up their programs like Georgia Southern, and a variety of Florida schools, (FAU, USF etc.) more and more players had their choice instead of the other way around.

And then the Internet changed everything. With it a whole industry emerged surrounding college recruiting from predicting where players would go to places like the HIT Center in town creating combine like workouts for athletes to work on their skills to be more attractive to college scouts.

So as the day progresses on Wednesday and there are constant reports about who won and who didn’t get anybody, remember, it’s an inexact science at best.

Before the whole thing exploded in the ’80’s two running backs created a stir like no others in back-to-back years. When Emmitt Smith was coming out of high school, the phone on my desk rang about every 2 minutes or so all day with somebody asking where he was going to go play college football. The next year, Marquette Smith was a 12th grader and my phone rang every 30 seconds or so asking the same question. Emmitt went on to Florida, was an All America selection, a first round NFL pick and onto a Hall of Fame pro career (although he never mentioned the Gators in his induction speech). Marquette went to FSU and elsewhere, his career ending early.

An inexact science at best.

We’ll have full coverage on all day. We’ll be at more than a dozen local high schools where the announcements will be made and the signings announced. Follow us on twitter @News4Jax for instant updates as well.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris -

National Signing Day: “Mark Your Calendar!”

It wasn’t quite ten years ago that you could sense a spike in the interest surrounding what was happening on National Signing Day. Formerly reserved for what were called “recruit-niks” and hard-core college football fans, suddenly high school auditoriums were full of students and faculty as football players (although all ‘fall’ sports use today as their first official day to commit) sat behind an array of hats and selected a school to play at the following year. National cable sports channels started to televise these announcements live and suddenly, new stars, and a new date sports fans put on their calendars were born.

A gym full of students sat completely silent (a feat in itself) as Tim Tebow waited for an ESPN producer to count him down to when he was going to make his announcement live on the air. When he chose Florida, the assembled group erupted, with cheers of “Go Gators” ringing through all of Nease High School. Interestingly enough, anybody who was there realized just how close Tebow had gotten to going to Alabama based on his relationship with Mike Shula. While much of the suspense regarding announcements is gone from this day because of social media and early commitments, it’s still a fun and exciting day for the student athletes, their parents and the schools.

Although recruiting is an inexact science at best.

Before an avalanche of information became the norm, the 6 o’clock news was the first place college football fans would hear about which big recruits were going where. That’s why in 1986, my phone rang about every 30 seconds on Signing Day with fans asking “Where’d Emmitt Smith sign.” Luckily Smith had made his decision and announcement to attend Florida early enough in the day to get the information out in a timely fashion.

The following year, my phone rang about every 10 seconds all day with fans asking “Where’d Marquette Smith sign?” Perhaps relishing in the attention at the time, Marquette Smith waited most of the day before letting people know he was headed to FSU. The interest in Emmitt’s destination was noticeable; the interest in Marquette’s was like a circus. Of course, Emmitt Smith went on to an All-American Career in college and is now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Marquette Smith never could find his footing in Tallahassee, eventually transferred to UCF (when their program was not yet Division I) and spent two years injured in the NFL. You’d have never known that based on the level of interest in the recruiting of those players before cell phones, the internet and cable television brought this day right into the national sports consciousness.

Lives will be pushed in a new direction today, parents will exhale and be thankful their son or daughter will have the opportunity to continue their education (in man cases for free) and we’ll update you throughout the day on what’s happening right here on as well as our Facebook page and Twitter accounts. And we’ll have complete coverage at 5, 6, 10 and 11 tonight.

What fun!