Wednesday, February 6, 2013

National Signing Day: The Consumption of What Might Be

Today is pivotal for college football programs across the country. There are no games scheduled, nor will there be any practices. But, the future performance of teams and the path to adulthood for hundreds of high school seniors are influenced by decisions announced today, national signing day. Players have been recruited for months by coaches extolling the virtues of their programs and institutions. Competition is fierce as highly rated recruits are viewed as a foundation for future success. The frenzy of college football recruiting that has taken place via letters, text messages, videos, tweets, and campus visits culminates today... or does it?

College football fans' infatuation with recruiting has grown as availability of information via talk radio, recruiting-related websites, and social media enables 24/7 engagement. For some fans, following the trails of the schools that recruits are considering is a sport in its own right. The recruiting season serves as a bridge between the recently ended season and spring practice. We have witnessed college football being stretched from a five-month season (August to New Year's Day) to a twelve-month product. The immense interest in recruiting is undeniable, the question is "why?"

The consumption of college football recruiting is influenced by the following motives:
  • Team identification - Fans who have high identification with a college football team look to recruiting season to fill the void left when football season ends. Becoming familiar with future players as they sign with a team is a way for fans to remain connected with their favorite team, even in the off-season.
  • Competition - Recruiting is more than a quest to sign the best football players; it is also a competition among programs. Sports media outlets that follow college football recruiting publish rankings of recruiting classes. It is a badge of honor for your favorite team to have a highly rated recruiting class... never mind that some signees may never meet expectations fans have of them on signing day.
  • Social currency - Staying up-to-date with recruiting news on one's favorite team is a form of social currency, allowing fans to be able to converse with others about recruiting happenings. The ability to converse about recruiting happenings on discussion boards and social networking sites is a way demonstrate to others one's identification with a team.
 National signing day holds great promise of what might be - will players signing today go on to lead their teams to wins, bowl games, and championships? Will my favorite team gain an advantage over rivals because of an outstanding recruiting class? Which players will be inserted into the starting lineup right away and make an immediate impact? These questions and others are intriguing, and thoughts of what might be attract many college football fans to consume recruiting news, including purchasing premium online content or print publications.

What is your take on the consumption of college football recruiting? Why do many football fans invest time and money to follow recruiting?