Steven Johnson: Quiet National Signing Days are the new normal

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

As a young aspiring football player in Memphis, the first Wednesday in February was always a special day for me and many athletes like myself.

That Wednesday was National Signing Day, a chance to watch your teammates sign to the college of their dreams with a full crowd in the high school auditorium or gymnasium.

That was a different era as signing day in February has become an afterthought with the addition of the Early Signing Period in December.

TCU, like many programs around the country, had a quiet National Signing Day. The most notable national and Texas news came in Aggieland as Texas A&M was able to hold onto five-star recruit Terry Bussey, who was named Mr. Texas Football in 2022.

Back in Fort Worth, aside from picking up a few preferred walk-ons in the days leading up to it, it had to feel like a typical week for the Horned Frogs staff that has been spent the last few weeks on the road recruiting.

While the early signing period allows coaches to lock up their classes a few months earlier and turn the focus to the future it also puts a lot of stress on coaches in a crucial part of their team’s seasons and an important time for their individual futures.

Typically the time after regular season finales and conference championships would offer a brief reprieve to reset before bowl game practices and making the final recruiting push. It would also give coaches time to look at their own individual prospects, like is there a move out there that allows a position coach to elevate to coordinator or to just receive a raise?

Now everything is jumbled into one and it can put a lot of strain on a program that’s trying to prepare for a bowl game, keep its coaching staff intact and lockdown signatures from recruits and transfers all in the span of less than a month after the regular season finishes.

When Sonny Dykes led the Horned Frogs to the national championship game in 2023, he said that was the moment his eyes were opened to why so many elite programs have so much support staff.

“You see some programs like Ohio State, Michigan and Georgia and those teams that have been there a lot through the years, you look at [how] big their staff size is,” Dykes said. “I think there’s been times where I probably thought, ‘Well why do they have all those people?’ Then you get to that level and there’s so much that’s going on that you understand now.”

The Horned Frogs obviously had more time this past season to solidify their recruiting class after a disappointing 5-7 regular season, but Dykes was able to re-capture some momentum with 21 high school signees for the No. 2 rated class in the Big 12 by 247Sports.

The transfer class was even more impressive and while schools adding some late transfers knocked TCU out of the top five, the Horned Frogs’ portal class is still ranked No. 13 in the country.

With the 2024 cycle officially in the books, TCU and many other programs are more than satisfied with their recruiting hauls as they turn the page to the next crop of future stars.

Quiet National Signing Days are the new normal, though I can’t help, but wonder if the old way was better for everybody from recruits and coaches alike.