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Behind the Scenes: The
Making National Signing Day

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Written by Daniel Thompson, February 2, 2016, 4 Comments,
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At the fictitious University of East Florida, based out Ft. Lauderdale, Fla, Head Coach Daniel Thompson journals the final week before National Signing Day. His recruiting class has 25 potential members with 22 total commitments and eight already enrolled on campus. Rivals.com rates the class as a top-10 class that seems to fill most of the needs. They are still missing a tight end, a wide receiver, an offensive lineman, and defensive back.

Below is a diary of the final week before National Signing Day (February 3).

January 27

We are exactly one week before National Signing Day and most of the class is set. We have filled most our needs – quarterback, running back, defensive line, linebacker and punter. We have a group that seemingly fits our team, but we are still missing a few folks that will make this a great class – something this team and University desperately need going into off-season, because perception is reality when it comes to recruiting and if you want to dominate the off-season, you have to dominate recruiting.

We have spent the last few weeks traveling all over the country, while coming back home late Friday to welcome in Official Visitors.

My staff’s days are long. We are waking up at 5:00 AM and getting in a quick workout because if we don’t maintain our health the road will get to us. By 7:00 AM, we are on the road, whether by car or by plane – we only use the plane when necessary because the cost is more than 100 times more expensive than a car, although quicker. We usually travel in two’s when we go to visit prospects, primarily because we need to meet so many people when we go to a school or visit a family and we have to be quick. This week, with only three spots left, we are going to be visiting nearly all of the committed, unenrolled players (16) and at least 15 other players that we are visiting for our open spots.

When we go to a school we need to visit with academic counselors, guidance counselor, coaches, teachers, and other mentors, as well as the player – we only usually see the player for less than 30 minutes because we need to get back on the road and they need to get back to class. We are confirming with guidance counselors, teachers, and academic personnel that they are focusing on school, that their grades are in-line, and that their test scores are fine. We have a lot of paperwork the NCAA requires, so we need to confirm they have the necessary information handy and ready to report. We also need to meet with coaches to make sure the prospect is working out and staying on a regiment. We are also trying to find out who else visited the prospect – they don’t always tell us.

We really only have time to spend an hour or so at each school because we need to get on to the next school.

Another reason we travel in two’s, is so that one coach can recruit and plan, while the other is driving. They are constantly calling back to the office and dealing with my support staff to make sure that all plans are set for the next school – we need everyone to be ready when we get there.

When a coach isn’t finalizing information they are doing exactly what fans are doing – checking out Twitter, Facebook, the message boards, and talking to reporters. You see reporters are able to pull information out of recruits that we may not be able to: who they are favoring, who just visited, what else someone said about us. And I know fans don’t think we check the message boards, but we do. We check out those “rumors” and “rumblings” because we never know whom is connected to whom.

Back at the office, our staff is filling out compliance paperwork for recruits that are coming in this weekend, shopping for food for the bar-b-que we are having at my house, getting name tags printed, finalizing hotel reservations, and making dinner reservations for Friday Night for official visitors.

 

January 29

We have nine official visitors tonight coming in, six of whom are already committed. This is our last big recruiting weekend and with the recruiting cycle almost over and most players already decided we are hosting a ton of High School juniors, as well.

We are starting to pair down our board. We know we only have three spots open. The top wide receiver out of Georgia is telling us all the right things, but he was supposed to visit this weekend and it doesn’t look like that is going to happen. I have always said, “follow the visits, not the tweets and statements.” We cannot continue to waste time on him.

We are going to have to let him know that on Tuesday he will not be receiving an official National Letter of Intent. We may still have a hat on the table, but we aren’t going to waste our time this weekend.

My staff is getting everything set-up for this weekend, I can’t do much because I need to be on the phone talking to prospects, parents, girlfriends of prospects, friends of prospects, coaches, advisors. If I am not on a phone call, I am texting, Direct Messaging, Facebook messaging, and doing everything I can to keep in touch with these guys. I am not laying on the recruiting pitch – they have heard it all – I am asking about their families, friends, school, the game last night, the new Future album, and everything but recruiting.

Seems tough, but I have a CRM-type software that allows me to keep track of everything (musical preferences, names, classes, etc.) so that I can make sure I keep everything straight.

This weekend is big. We have the tight end we want, the defensive back is bringing his mom, and a few linemen are coming in that we need. We have three spots and I don’t care who the final three are, as long as they are from this group.

I have two players taking visits to other schools this week –while I think they are just to get free trips you can never count them out.

January 31

It was a helluva weekend and we think we gained some great momentum, got two silent commitments, but I have had so many silent commitments in the past that I can’t count them in just yet.

My priorities this early afternoon are to:

  1. Find out how my commitments enjoyed their visit to Alabama and Tennessee.
  2. Plan my next few days of communication with my commitments and prospects – no more face-to-face meetings.
  3. Get with my staff to make sure all NLIs are ready. We are going to send them to all prospects committed and get eight extra ready for players that we think we have a shot with. We will not finalize those until tomorrow. The others are ready to send to FedEx.

February 1

Final three days. My text messages to solidly committed players is pretty straight forward – you are important, we need you, do not get sidetracked; you will be receiving your National Letter of Intent tomorrow and here are the rules and time frames.

If they are doing a TV special to “announce” their decision or if a network approaches them, I encourage them to do it – why? Because it is a great moment for them and great publicity for East Florida. In fact, I am going to encourage them to troll some of our Rivals. Why? Because that is what gets people talking – remember recruiting is a lot about perception.

We are reaching out to those eight final players today to get the final idea of where they stand. We believe everybody has made their decision by now, even if they say they are undecided.

But more than just talking to players, we are talking to reporters and folks behind the scenes – they know more than we do at this point. We need to know what our realistic chances are and how to invest our last two days. Girlfriends and coaches are great for information, but none are better than reporters. We read Rivals, Scout, ESPN, random blogs, and just about every interview because they could shed new information on information we don’t know. I have staff on every message board – our yearly fees on these websites in the thousands, but you will never find us on them, we use fake names and aliases.

My recruiting staff has been in the office all weekend. Loads of paperwork for the NCAA is necessary, we need to make sure ever “I” is dotted and “T” is crossed.

 

February 2

The night before the big day. We have sent all of our NLIs out to prospects, we decided to only send five to uncommitted players. Not much we can do at this point, we just have to hope for the best. We know that this isn’t a last day push as much as it has been an all year push for these guys. Conversations now don’t mean much except for ego, but we know which players we need to talk to.

We need to keep our guys, so one final phone call to each is necessary and we will talk to their parents to congratulate and thank them.

We are going to make one final push to the uncommitted prospects. We know what we offer and we know what they are telling us. We will likely find out tomorrow with everyone else. A lot of folks think we always know before the big TV announcements, sometimes we do, but most of the time we don’t.

Who are our best friends right now? Reporters. All of my coaching staff is talking to reporters trying to glean anything out of them. They keep in touch with most of the backchannels, they hear the rumors, they can chase down a lot behind the scenes that I don’t have time to. Yes, I do talk to reporters directly usually via quick phone call.

But we need some rest, today isn’t as big as most of the world think it is – we are going to hang out as a staff tonight and celebrate the hardwork.

February 3 Morning

Today is it. We all wake up early and, as always, hit the gym and enjoy a breakfast together – it is going to be a long day.

The fax machine is set-up and we are ready to go. Starting at 7:00 AM players can start to send in letters. The letters usually come in spurts – those that send before school, those that send them around mid-morning because they have announcements at school, or those that send them around lunchtime. We have a schedule set-up for each player.

We are waiting on those final four uncommitted players. They will each announce on ESPN in the early afternoon, so we need to get the players in and then just wait.

February 3 Late Morning

There was only one surprise this morning as a player that we sent a NLI to that was committed to us, has decided not to sign today. We think a coach got to him last night and he is delaying his decision. We need to stay on him, but if all four uncommitted players announce for us tonight his spot could be gone.

Our staff has checked every NLI to make sure every signature has been signed and appropriate box checked.

I have a quick spot on ESPN at 1:00 PM to talk about our class.

February 3 Afternoon

ESPN went well. We also closed our class strong by having three uncommitted prospects announce our way on TV – all within an hour. ESPN talked about that for about 10 minutes straight, which is free publicity and a huge opportunity for our program.

I have to gear up for my press conference for our reporters, so I will review the cheat sheet from my staff.

February 3 Evening

We just finished our press conference and it went well. Lots of great questions.

We feel like we had a great closing week and final day. We filled most of our gaps and the websites have ranked our class highly, so they will continue to talk about us. I do not look at websites as true scouting websites, but as media and any free media is good media. Fans get their heads too focused on their projections, but we look at them solely as an opportunity to talk about how good my staff did recruiting.

We close the day with a coach and family dinner. We congratulate each other and know that we will all likely be taking vacations over the next few weeks.

Daniel Thompson

About Daniel Thompson

Dan Thompson is a 2010 graduate of the University Florida, graduating with a degree in Economics and a degree in Political Science. During this time at UF, Dan worked three years for the Florida Gator Football team as a recruiting ambassador. Dan dealt daily with prospects, NCAA guidelines, and coaching staff. Dan was also involved in Florida Blue Key, Student Government and Greek Life. Currently, Dan works as an Executive Head Hunter for a Tampa-based company. Dan enjoys golfing, country music, gin, travel, oysters, and a medium-rare steak. Dan has previously covered the Gators extensively on BourbonMeyer.com; on Twitter @DK_Thompson; and as the administrator of TheGatorsDaily.com.

  1. DeBigLeezardFebruary 2, 2016, 8:49 am

    Daniel… Hey… this was a great article.

    I have been a serious follower of recruiting since the mid-80’s and even went through the recruiting process itself back in the late 70’s… but this article shed a whole new light on what goes on behind the scenes.
    Very few of us really realize what our coaches and their support staff go through on a daily basis.
    Thank you!

    • Daniel Thompson
      Daniel ThompsonFebruary 2, 2016, 9:34 am

      Thanks for reading.

  2. subtle_gatorFebruary 2, 2016, 9:28 am

    Not sure how accurate but it was entertaining. Good work DT.

    • Daniel Thompson
      Daniel ThompsonFebruary 2, 2016, 9:33 am

      Based this article from my three years of working in the recruiting department.

https://www.gatorcountry.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/signing_day_pen-150x150.jpg Daniel Thompson FeatureRecruiting ,,,
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At the fictitious University of East Florida, based out Ft. Lauderdale, Fla, Head Coach Daniel Thompson journals the final week before National Signing Day. His recruiting class has 25 potential members with 22 total commitments and eight already enrolled on campus. Rivals.com rates the class as a top-10 class that seems to fill most of the needs. They are still missing a tight end, a wide receiver, an offensive lineman, and defensive back.

Below is a diary of the final week before National Signing Day (February 3).

January 27

We are exactly one week before National Signing Day and most of the class is set. We have filled most our needs – quarterback, running back, defensive line, linebacker and punter. We have a group that seemingly fits our team, but we are still missing a few folks that will make this a great class – something this team and University desperately need going into off-season, because perception is reality when it comes to recruiting and if you want to dominate the off-season, you have to dominate recruiting.

We have spent the last few weeks traveling all over the country, while coming back home late Friday to welcome in Official Visitors.

My staff’s days are long. We are waking up at 5:00 AM and getting in a quick workout because if we don’t maintain our health the road will get to us. By 7:00 AM, we are on the road, whether by car or by plane – we only use the plane when necessary because the cost is more than 100 times more expensive than a car, although quicker. We usually travel in two’s when we go to visit prospects, primarily because we need to meet so many people when we go to a school or visit a family and we have to be quick. This week, with only three spots left, we are going to be visiting nearly all of the committed, unenrolled players (16) and at least 15 other players that we are visiting for our open spots.

When we go to a school we need to visit with academic counselors, guidance counselor, coaches, teachers, and other mentors, as well as the player – we only usually see the player for less than 30 minutes because we need to get back on the road and they need to get back to class. We are confirming with guidance counselors, teachers, and academic personnel that they are focusing on school, that their grades are in-line, and that their test scores are fine. We have a lot of paperwork the NCAA requires, so we need to confirm they have the necessary information handy and ready to report. We also need to meet with coaches to make sure the prospect is working out and staying on a regiment. We are also trying to find out who else visited the prospect – they don’t always tell us.

We really only have time to spend an hour or so at each school because we need to get on to the next school.

Another reason we travel in two’s, is so that one coach can recruit and plan, while the other is driving. They are constantly calling back to the office and dealing with my support staff to make sure that all plans are set for the next school – we need everyone to be ready when we get there.

When a coach isn’t finalizing information they are doing exactly what fans are doing – checking out Twitter, Facebook, the message boards, and talking to reporters. You see reporters are able to pull information out of recruits that we may not be able to: who they are favoring, who just visited, what else someone said about us. And I know fans don’t think we check the message boards, but we do. We check out those “rumors” and “rumblings” because we never know whom is connected to whom.

Back at the office, our staff is filling out compliance paperwork for recruits that are coming in this weekend, shopping for food for the bar-b-que we are having at my house, getting name tags printed, finalizing hotel reservations, and making dinner reservations for Friday Night for official visitors.

 

January 29

We have nine official visitors tonight coming in, six of whom are already committed. This is our last big recruiting weekend and with the recruiting cycle almost over and most players already decided we are hosting a ton of High School juniors, as well.

We are starting to pair down our board. We know we only have three spots open. The top wide receiver out of Georgia is telling us all the right things, but he was supposed to visit this weekend and it doesn’t look like that is going to happen. I have always said, “follow the visits, not the tweets and statements.” We cannot continue to waste time on him.

We are going to have to let him know that on Tuesday he will not be receiving an official National Letter of Intent. We may still have a hat on the table, but we aren’t going to waste our time this weekend.

My staff is getting everything set-up for this weekend, I can’t do much because I need to be on the phone talking to prospects, parents, girlfriends of prospects, friends of prospects, coaches, advisors. If I am not on a phone call, I am texting, Direct Messaging, Facebook messaging, and doing everything I can to keep in touch with these guys. I am not laying on the recruiting pitch – they have heard it all – I am asking about their families, friends, school, the game last night, the new Future album, and everything but recruiting.

Seems tough, but I have a CRM-type software that allows me to keep track of everything (musical preferences, names, classes, etc.) so that I can make sure I keep everything straight.

This weekend is big. We have the tight end we want, the defensive back is bringing his mom, and a few linemen are coming in that we need. We have three spots and I don’t care who the final three are, as long as they are from this group.

I have two players taking visits to other schools this week –while I think they are just to get free trips you can never count them out.

January 31

It was a helluva weekend and we think we gained some great momentum, got two silent commitments, but I have had so many silent commitments in the past that I can’t count them in just yet.

My priorities this early afternoon are to:

  1. Find out how my commitments enjoyed their visit to Alabama and Tennessee.
  2. Plan my next few days of communication with my commitments and prospects – no more face-to-face meetings.
  3. Get with my staff to make sure all NLIs are ready. We are going to send them to all prospects committed and get eight extra ready for players that we think we have a shot with. We will not finalize those until tomorrow. The others are ready to send to FedEx.

February 1

Final three days. My text messages to solidly committed players is pretty straight forward – you are important, we need you, do not get sidetracked; you will be receiving your National Letter of Intent tomorrow and here are the rules and time frames.

If they are doing a TV special to “announce” their decision or if a network approaches them, I encourage them to do it – why? Because it is a great moment for them and great publicity for East Florida. In fact, I am going to encourage them to troll some of our Rivals. Why? Because that is what gets people talking – remember recruiting is a lot about perception.

We are reaching out to those eight final players today to get the final idea of where they stand. We believe everybody has made their decision by now, even if they say they are undecided.

But more than just talking to players, we are talking to reporters and folks behind the scenes – they know more than we do at this point. We need to know what our realistic chances are and how to invest our last two days. Girlfriends and coaches are great for information, but none are better than reporters. We read Rivals, Scout, ESPN, random blogs, and just about every interview because they could shed new information on information we don’t know. I have staff on every message board – our yearly fees on these websites in the thousands, but you will never find us on them, we use fake names and aliases.

My recruiting staff has been in the office all weekend. Loads of paperwork for the NCAA is necessary, we need to make sure ever “I” is dotted and “T” is crossed.

 

February 2

The night before the big day. We have sent all of our NLIs out to prospects, we decided to only send five to uncommitted players. Not much we can do at this point, we just have to hope for the best. We know that this isn’t a last day push as much as it has been an all year push for these guys. Conversations now don’t mean much except for ego, but we know which players we need to talk to.

We need to keep our guys, so one final phone call to each is necessary and we will talk to their parents to congratulate and thank them.

We are going to make one final push to the uncommitted prospects. We know what we offer and we know what they are telling us. We will likely find out tomorrow with everyone else. A lot of folks think we always know before the big TV announcements, sometimes we do, but most of the time we don’t.

Who are our best friends right now? Reporters. All of my coaching staff is talking to reporters trying to glean anything out of them. They keep in touch with most of the backchannels, they hear the rumors, they can chase down a lot behind the scenes that I don’t have time to. Yes, I do talk to reporters directly usually via quick phone call.

But we need some rest, today isn’t as big as most of the world think it is – we are going to hang out as a staff tonight and celebrate the hardwork.

February 3 Morning

Today is it. We all wake up early and, as always, hit the gym and enjoy a breakfast together – it is going to be a long day.

The fax machine is set-up and we are ready to go. Starting at 7:00 AM players can start to send in letters. The letters usually come in spurts – those that send before school, those that send them around mid-morning because they have announcements at school, or those that send them around lunchtime. We have a schedule set-up for each player.

We are waiting on those final four uncommitted players. They will each announce on ESPN in the early afternoon, so we need to get the players in and then just wait.

February 3 Late Morning

There was only one surprise this morning as a player that we sent a NLI to that was committed to us, has decided not to sign today. We think a coach got to him last night and he is delaying his decision. We need to stay on him, but if all four uncommitted players announce for us tonight his spot could be gone.

Our staff has checked every NLI to make sure every signature has been signed and appropriate box checked.

I have a quick spot on ESPN at 1:00 PM to talk about our class.

February 3 Afternoon

ESPN went well. We also closed our class strong by having three uncommitted prospects announce our way on TV – all within an hour. ESPN talked about that for about 10 minutes straight, which is free publicity and a huge opportunity for our program.

I have to gear up for my press conference for our reporters, so I will review the cheat sheet from my staff.

February 3 Evening

We just finished our press conference and it went well. Lots of great questions.

We feel like we had a great closing week and final day. We filled most of our gaps and the websites have ranked our class highly, so they will continue to talk about us. I do not look at websites as true scouting websites, but as media and any free media is good media. Fans get their heads too focused on their projections, but we look at them solely as an opportunity to talk about how good my staff did recruiting.

We close the day with a coach and family dinner. We congratulate each other and know that we will all likely be taking vacations over the next few weeks.

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