In the middle of all the uproar, Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin got his say and almost all SEC fans fired back with a not-so-polite reply. Tiger fans speculated about what landed DeAngelo Benton at Auburn and criticized the methods of Jackson and his father for the way things were handled.
It all seemed so surreal and, as always, a little bit ridiculous.
Now I’m not one to downplay the importance of National Signing Day. People (usually uninformed people) love to talk about how overhyped and ridiculous it all is, but that’s just silly. The recruits that signed last week will provide the backbone of every program in the nation over the next few years, and the short-term benefits are immeasurable.
Two true freshmen, A.J. Greene and Julio Jones, became superstar receivers in their first months as college receivers. Percy Harvin almost single handedly delivered an SEC Championship to Florida in his freshman year, and he played an integral part in a second one as a junior.
Though it is an inexact science, recruiting obviously delivers on the hype that surrounds it.
But Kiffin’s comments drove home a reminder that it can all go a little too far. In his now-famous tirade at a Tennessee boosters’ breakfast, Kiffin displayed, to me at least, an attitude that objectifies the very people that are expected to improve a program.
"You can't understand how hard this is to get done," Kiffin said. "[UT assistant coach] Eddie [Gran] had this set up at 7 o'clock in the morning. [Richardson's aunts] got the papers signed by the kid. They didn't go do it at the school because they knew somebody at the school was going to screw it up. The fax machine wouldn't work, or they would have changed the signatures, all the things that go on in Pahokee now.”
Without trying to accuse anyone, it almost sounds like Kiffin cares more about the thrill of signing/stealing the player [Pahokee’s Nu’Keese Richardson] than the very important decision the 18-year old kid just made.
Making a college decision was hard enough for me as a completely anonymous kid who gave up on the football dream in 9th grade. I can’t even imagine having such a big decision amplified by the likes of ESPN or Scout.com, and then once again complicated by Signing Day shenanigans.
What’s more, Kiffin didn’t even bother to refer to one of his most-prized signings by name, but just called him “the kid” even after he had his papers in hand. It just sounds like someone that cares more about the stars next to someone’s name and the schools that aren’t getting him than the fact that he just committed to be a Volunteer.
And the attitude extends to all fan bases. Fans across Tiger Nation were pleased as punch at the thought of welcoming Bell into the fold last week, and some were just as pleased to dismiss or insult him when he had a change of heart.
Granted, Bell reneged on his verbal commitment to LSU. But since it’s one of a handful of decisions that genuinely changes a person’s life, I’m willing to forgive him if he had a last-minute epiphany about what was in his best interest.
The Jackson saga is a little different than Bell since his father, Lance Guidry, apparently had no problem telling some that LSU wasn’t the best fit, while telling others, including the LSU coaches, the exact opposite.
But National Signing Day is over. A group of great athletes made the decision to further their careers and educations at LSU, and a group of equally talented guys decided to go elsewhere. It’s not a reflection of anything other than who Tiger Nation will be cheering and who it will be booing in the coming seasons.
Until then, there’s an entirely new batch of prospects to imagine signing as Tigers. But when they do, or when they opt to become Gators, Longhorns or Volunteers, just remember - They’re incredibly athletic college kids, not stars with numbers next to them.