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updated: 2/5/2014 10:38 PM

Sad to say, but signing day matters to me

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  • John Curtis High School football coach J.T. Curtis watches as Malachi Dupre signs his letter of intent for LSU in the high school's gym on Wednesday's National Signing Day.

    John Curtis High School football coach J.T. Curtis watches as Malachi Dupre signs his letter of intent for LSU in the high school's gym on Wednesday's National Signing Day.
    Associated Press


Please don't ask why college football's national signing day matters to me.

I woke up early Wednesday and immediately tuned in ESPNU to see which high school football players were going to which universities.

I hate myself for doing this, considering that the world would be a better place if college football were blown up and rebuilt with better values.

Signing day is a bad reality series and a terrible social study. Adult experts rave about 17-year-olds as if they're doing something more significant than playing football. Classmates applaud as if the young men are going to college to become heart surgeons.

Congratulations to these athletes and their families because a scholarship is precious. But earning one should be a victory for them, not for football fans.

Yet I plead guilty to breathlessly watching the event unfold because it interests me regardless of how much I wish it didn't.

(Frightening to ponder is what I'd be like if Illinois, my alma mater, actually played football.)

Maybe my sickness is simply a sorry reflection of America. The more issues that college football has -- corrupt coaches, unethical boosters, manipulated athletes -- the more popular the sport is.

So signing day at its best is a guilty pleasure.

It shouldn't matter that the Big Ten once was the nation's premier football conference and now is struggling to position itself within the mix of leagues chasing the Southeastern Conference.

One theory is that the population shift from North to South means the Big Ten won't ever catch up. That's as good a reason as any for one rating service having the SEC with seven of the Top 10 recruiting classes to the Big Ten's one.

Sad to say, for some reason that matters to me even though it means little in the wide scope of problems higher education is experiencing in this country.

Interesting to me is that USA Today's Super 25 high school football rankings at the end of last season included nine teams from states with SEC schools to four teams from Big Ten states. The newspaper's all-USA first and second teams featured 46 players: 28 of them from states with SEC schools and six from states with Big Ten schools.

For some reason that matters to me.

Being a Parade magazine all-American has been a big deal for decades. The team announced just last week cited 57 players.

Five players from Big Ten states made first team, including one each from conference newcomers New Jersey (Rutgers) and Maryland. Four more made honorable mention.

Compare that to SEC states, which contributed 29 first teamers and honorable mentions to the Parade team.

For some reason that also matters to me.

There was a time when the premier states for producing college players were Texas, California, Pennsylvania and Ohio, but now they're more like Texas, California and the entire Southeast.

No wonder the SEC recently had a string of national champions until league representative Auburn finally lost the title to Florida State.

This shouldn't matter much to anybody. It's only college football. National television should devote more time to youngsters who commit to studying international affairs with aspirations to end all wars.

But we haven't evolved to that point yet as a nation, and I certainly haven't as a person.

If I were smart -- which smart money says I'm not -- on Wednesday morning I would have signed on to something more important than signing day.

Instead, all I can think is that where young football players go to college is something else in sports to care about that doesn't matter.

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