One of CF.C's co-founders remembers working as a cub reporter at the Palouse Daily News in the early 80s and learning, purely by accident, that Pullman High's standout quarterback Bob Bashaw had signed with one of Big Sky Conference schools -- 10 days earlier.
"Nobody thought twice about it," said Greg Witter. "I called the info into the copy desk and it was a short note in the next day's paper –- interesting, but not a big deal. Five days, ten days, a month could have gone by without anybody saying boo. Other than coaches, I don't think anyone really knew when Signing Day was.
"Word in the old days just kind of eked -- Joe Danelo is headed to WSU, Denny Fitzpatrick to Washington, Mike McLaughlin to OSU, Tom Laney to Notre Dame. Except for the Mark Rypien sweepstakes in 1981, no one paid close attention."
How the world has changed.
When Asante Cleveland, a WSU verbal commit, tried to quietly take an official visit to Miami recently, it was in cyberspace darn near before he got off the airplane. When Bellevue's Julious Moore, a verbal commit to UCLA since June, encountered recent academic roadblocks on the way to Westwood, intrepid locals hit his Facebook page for clues that he now may be looking at WSU or UW.
When Kalafitoni Pole, an under-the-radar defensive tackle from Union City, Calif., verbally committed to WSU last week, he was unrated by Scout.com. The only data points on him were height and weight and scholarship offers from WSU, Utah and Wyoming. Now, just a week later, his highlight video has been dissected by Scout national analysts and he's rated a 3-star kid among the top 100 defensive tackles in the nation.
THE SPEED WITH which information moves, in all its forms, has transformed the recruiting process and turned football Signing Day into one of the biggest events on the sports calendar.
The week in which letters of intent are signed represents the busiest five days a site such as CF.C will experience all year. It's bigger than the opening week of the season. It's bigger than rivalry week. It's bigger than March Madness.
In the 11-plus years CF.C has been cyber-casting, only one week of readership has topped a letter-of-intent week -- in December 2002 when the Cougs were preparing for the Rose Bowl and a mysterious plane showed up at Pullman-Moscow Regional with a tail number that matched Bear Bryant's career win total.
We've been writing (and blogging) about it wall to wall all year long. You've been following it all year long. Who'd we get? Who are the sleepers? Any surprises? How do our guys compare?
Inquiring minds wants to know!
Heck, a day or two after Signing Day, CF.C always comes out with a list of 10 or 12 in-state prep juniors to watch for in the next recruiting recycle. That story will be one of the most highly read of the year.
Tim Layden of Sports Illustrated had a good explanation for this peculiar, nationwide obsession. "... it isn't a game, and it has no real outcome that can be tangibly measured," he once wrote. "It's words and numbers and maybes and possiblys. Therefore, recruiting fans feel like they can be part of the process. They can project potential as well as the next guy. So they dive in."
CF.C has been aiding and abetting that "dive in" since August 1998. The Cougar class of recruits that will be unveiled this Wednesday will be the 12th that we've covered.
Based on current Scout.com projections, this crop of new Cougs figures to be rated somewhere around 35th to 45th in the nation. As of this moment, the class is ranked No. 35.
Historically speaking, if the group stays closer to No. 40 than 50, that puts it on the upper end of the crimson experience. Throw out the aberrations at each end -- No. 21 in 2004 and No. 74 two classes ago following the coaching change -- and you'll find that the 40s and 50s tend to be crimson country during the first week of February. And for the record, that touted 2004 class turned out to be a bust of seismic proportion, illustrating one more time how this whole thing can be more crapshoot than science.
Indeed, the 1999 WSU class -- while No. 39 nationally -- was rated between eighth and tenth in the Pac-10 by the recruiting services of the day. That class wound up being the backbone for the Cougars' three consecutive 10-win seasons from 2001-03. And that trifecta, by the way, marked the first time a Pac-10 school had strung together three straight 10-win seasons since the 1930s.
WSU's RECENT NATIONAL RECRUITING RANKING HISTORY: