Today is the most important off-season day in college football, a momentous and staggeringly significant event that is known as National Signing Day.
Today 18-year-olds declare where they will accept scholarships to play football. No other thing that happens today, barring an alien invasion, will be as newsworthy.
Five things to remember about the day:
1. The Hat Dance
The best players announcing today have been treated as god-like messiahs since the seventh grade, their every move praised, their every whim coddled. For the past year, frantic fans and reporters for recruiting websites (in some cases, that's a combined position) have been hanging breathlessly for any hint of where the player might go.
So today, in a noble effort to stop feeding the Ego Monster, national networks will broadcast live the kid's announcement, where he will line up three (or four or five or six) hats from the proud institutions of learning seeking his nod; he will then playfully pretend to pick up one or two (or four or five) before finally putting one on his head.
You could get upset at this. On the other hand, you could just sit back and enjoy the fact that across the country, lawyers, executives and other high-priced alumni are wasting their day praying this kid picks up their hat.
2. Every team does well today.
The concept may seem odd -- surely there's a limited talent pool, so not everyone can get the cream of the crop. But not if you listen to the coaches. All holes will be filled, some great, great kids have been signed that Coach is really excited to get on campus, and the future so's bright even shades won't help.
This goes for teams like Rice, Tulane and Washington State, so make of it what you will.
3. No one really knows how good these kids will be.
Everyone's an expert in the YouTube age. Message boards are filled with fan analysis of the blocking technique of that 300-pounder from St. Mary's High, or the breakaway ability of that wide receiver from Gadsden, Alabama. These are based on highlight reels put up on YouTube; few seem to grasp the idea that a "highlight reel" would only contain "highlights" showing the player at his best.
And even the experts aren't that expert. Think of how many NFL draft busts there are, with scouts who have miles of game tape and a combine where they measure every tangible and interview for every intangible. On Signing Day, you're dealing with high school kids who haven't become fully grown, playing competition that may suck balls, who all of a sudden are not going to be the biggest name on campus.
There are some surefire prospects -- maybe a dozen a year? -- but the rest is a crapshoot.
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4. Laugh along when SEC schools talk about education.
You have a limited number of scholarships you can give out in any year; some SEC schools go way beyond that. Why? Because they know some of these kids have grades so bad they can't even get past the admission office of an SEC school. And believe us, that's bad. But that won't stop some kid from saying that he chose LSU over Bama because of "the education."
5. If your school misses out on a top recruit, you "dodged a bullet."
That kid -- that just yesterday you would have given up your second-born for -- is now reliably rumored to be "a bad apple" with attitude problems, a 400 SAT score, a gun collection that Gilbert Arenas would slobber over, and a brand-new Escalade in front of his shotgun shack.
Texas Bonus Point:
Celebrate, Longhorn Fans -- Today Is Your Annual National Championship
No school in the country has a high-quality state locked up like UT does. The Horns basically pick and choose who they want and get them committed by the time the kids are juniors. Texas high-school football being what it is, that means UT has a top-notch class every single year.
What they do with those players, in seasons when the starting QB is not named "Vince Young," is another matter. So enjoy today while you can, Horns, for tomorrow reality comes.