National Signing Day has come and gone. Thank goodness.
It's safe to say National Signing Day is a big deal in college football. It was a solid day for the Buckeyes; OSU once again landed a top ten recruiting class, and all five of Ohio State's questionable commits stuck to their pledges. That includes Mike Weber, whose announcement that he would sign with Ohio State provided more drama than any other commitment's.
As you may recall, Mike Weber is a four-star running back from Detroit, which puts him in the backyard of
Michigan University the University of Michigan. He was previously a Wolverines commit, but Weber decommitted near the end of Michigan's awful season and soon after committed to Ohio State.
That wasn't the end of his recruitment, though; Michigan hired Jim Harbaugh in late December, and Harbaugh was in hot pursuit of the second-highest rated player in Michigan. Would Weber stick to his Ohio State pledge, or would he make a late flip to the home team? His shutting down media availability until National Signing Day only heightened the anticipation for his answer.
Last June, Ramzy Nasrallah wrote about how to follow recruiting without being an asshole. But wait, there's a twist! This time around, it's not fans being assholes, it's media members.
You see, National Signing Day isn't just a chance to find out where football recruits are going to school, it's a perfect opportunity to whine about attention-seeking recruits, to homer it up, to be the person to spoil the day for a commit.
Therefore, we are adding another chapter to the 11W Etiquette book, "How to Cover National Signing Day Without Being A Tool."
ONLY TOOLS SPOIL A HIGH SCHOOLER'S MOMENT IN THE SUN FOR CLICKS
This one is addressed to Mike Farrell, National Recruiting Director for Rivals.com. Shortly before Weber's press conference, Farrell felt it was an appropriate time to spill the beans about Weber's commitment:
— Mike Farrell (@rivalsmike) February 4, 2015
Spoilers are tough to manage. On one hand, many journalists feel an obligation to share any and all information they have with the public. On the other hand, many journalists (Farrell included) are asked to embargo recruiting information, and comply. On an event like National Signing Day, where the recruit will announce the decision in a matter of minutes, the public doesn't benefit from spoiling the announcement.
Making the situation unambiguous, though, is that Weber's announcement had been delayed. Once Farrell made his announcement (which he backpedaled on only four minutes later), it was another half hour until Weber made the official announcement. Want to bet somebody relayed the "prediction" to Weber?
Nobody likes the NFL Draft media who spoil picks on live TV, and nobody likes it when this happens either. To Farrell's credit, he apologized later. It was too late, but it provides a handy lesson: if you don't act like you're uncovering the Pentagon Papers every time you tweet something about recruiting, you can avoid looking like a tool.
ONLY TOOLS MAKE DRIVE-BY JUDGMENTS
We've encountered hot take artist Graham Couch before. For those who need a refresher, Couch is the guy who thought Aaron Craft was only lauded so much because he was white.
Couch had another strong contender for #hot #take of the year:
If a kid you're recruiting is holding a press conference on #NationalSigningDay, it's a red flag you might have recruited an entitled twerp.
— Graham Couch (@Graham_Couch) February 4, 2015
The context: Couch, a writer for the Lansing State Journal, was complaining about Mike Weber's announcement, which was pushed back half an hour. Clearly it means Weber is a prima donna; there couldn't be any more charitable explanations like, say, waiting for Weber's father to arrive so he could commit in front of his family.
The message from people like Couch is clear: you have delayed me slightly, and that is unforgivable. I, a real journalist, am not someone to trifle with. You and your press conference are CLOWNJOKEFRAUDS.
Along the same lines, here's another piece of advice: don't take potshots at fans when you're going to be proven wrong minutes later. Port Huron Times-Herald writer Paul Costanzo found this out the hard way.
As Mike Weber prepares to announce his decision, Ohio State fans prepare their "we're stacked at RB" and "he's scared of competition" tweets
— Paul Costanzo (@PaulCostanzo) February 4, 2015
(That... did not work out so well. And don't mention the Michigan fans preparing their "he'll transfer in two years" and "O$$$U Cheats!!!" tweets, either.)
There is little reason to treat Couch seriously anymore, as he has developed into Michigan's latest blowhard, joining illustrious figures like Drew Sharp and Michael Rosenberg. But to any up-and-coming journalism majors who are considering being a drive-by moralist tool or troll of rival fans, I make this humble suggestion: don't.
There is a purpose in slagging on journalists who do a bad job. In the previous case, where Ramzy held fans to account, the goal was keeping fans from leaving stupid messages for recruits. In this case, instructing media members on how to act will hopefully lead to them not providing a bad role model for fans on how to act.
National Signing Day can create some bad feelings, and it's up to media members to be above the fray. I have no illusions that this guide will do anything to change their behavior, but dangit, it's better than nothing.