TIM PEELER: Football Signing Day is Near
BY TIM PEELER
RALEIGH – National Signing Day is less than a week away and for college football fans around the country, it’s practically a holiday, the testosterone-infused offset to Valentine’s Day, which always follows a week or two later.
Signing Day’s popularity has peaked in recent years, with press conferences streamed live on the internet and other day-long activities. (GoPack.com, in fact, will participate in this trend for the first time this year: New NC State football coach Tom O’Brien’s first Signing Day press conference will be broadcast on Wednesday, beginning at 4 p.m.)
And while the Knight Commission, college athletics’ conscience since it was formed in 1989, recently weighed in on the ill effects of websites and publications that are devoted to little other than recruiting information, Signing Day is covered with bowl-like anticipation by newspapers, magazines and websites all offering up-to-the-minute information about where the top high school players in the country may be heading. (GoPack.com does not participate in this – as the official website for NC State athletics, GoPack.com is forbidden by NCAA rules from writing about prospective athletes in any sport.)
So, I thought it would be good to go back and look at some Signing Days from the past. Over the next five days, we’ll detail some landmark signing classes in NC State football history.
First, a little background. The first true signing day nationally was in 1964, when the Conference Commissioners Association (not the NCAA) established the National Letter of Intent, which allowed high school student-athletes to sign letters stating their school of choice. The program, which is voluntary, is still administered by the CCA, which is a composed of the commissioners of all NCAA conferences. The CCA has housed the NLI office at the headquarters of the Southeastern Conference since 1995.
The original letter of intent fit on two pages, with a one-page list of frequently asked questions. Today’s letter of intent is now four pages long and has an entire website devoted to answering potential questions.
From 1964-73, letters of intent were signed on the same day – May 20 – for all sports. Now, there are two signing periods, which last up to a month long, for most NCAA sports. It’s not very well known, but the first signing day for football is the third Wednesday of December – that’s when mid-year junior college transfers can sign to play for their school of choice. The second, of course, is the first Wednesday of February, the day that is commonly known as National Signing Day.
It’s also the first day that men’s and women’s field hockey, men’s and women’s soccer and water polo recruits can sign letters of intent. Men’s and women’s basketball have a one-week early signing period, beginning in early November, and a six-week late signing period, from early April until mid-May. All other sports have a one-week early signing period in November and a four-month late signing period from April through the beginning of August.
So here is an interesting tidbit – the freshman class of 1964 was the first to sign national letters of intent, and for NC State, that was one of the best football recruiting classes in school history.
Among those Wolfpack head coach Earle Edwards who signed on May 20, 1964, were Lincolnton (N.C.) High School teammates Dennis Byrd and Steve Warren. Byrd, a mammoth defensive lineman, was the Wolfpack’s first consensus All-America football player and was recently elected to the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame. Warren, a past-president of the Wolfpack Club, was also an All-America lineman for the Wolfpack and co-captain of the 1967 ACC Championship team.
Former Wolfpack coach Chuck Amato of Easton, Pa., was also a member of that signing class, as were twins Freddie and Francis Combs of Hertford, N.C. Freddie Combs became an All-America defensive back, while Francis was a defensive end in football and an accomplished catcher in baseball. Former Wolfpack player and assistant coach Greg Williams of Burlington and star end Mike Capuano of Pittsburg were also in the class.
But as a freshman team, that collection of players managed to compile a 1-4 record, while the varsity won its second ACC Champions under Edwards. In 1965, they helped the Wolfpack share the ACC Championship. And they, of course, were the seniors on the 1967 team that was ranked as high as No. 3 in the nation and won the Liberty Bowl over Georgia.Signing Day can be a fruitful time for college football programs. But, over the next couple of days, you’ll see that not all of the best recruits turn into the best players. And not all the best college or professional players were top-notch recruits.
You may contact Tim Peeler at email@example.com.