With the Bowl games long finished and Irish Basketball locked in an ugly four game slide, it gave me time to go back and think about signing day. For me, signing day has always been a disappointment. Perhaps it began when the Irish signed Ron Powlus. Enormous and unreasonable expectations that were never fulfilled. I will always maintain, though, that Powlus had a good career at Notre Dame.
The recruiting rankings have always bothered me. John Feinstein gave me some ammunition during a recent CBS Sports Minute, when he proclaimed Signing Day “the most overrated day in sports.” Feinstein described how Alabama has had the number one ranked class for seven straight years and asked, facetiously, “shouldn’t the Crimson Tide win the National Title every year?”
Of course not, but this reminds us that signing day is fraught with cannot miss-es who miss, and little known players who shine. Consider the Notre Dame classes over the last 10 years according to 247Sports:
Year Ranking Source
2008 #1 247
2009 #15 247
2010 #16 247
2011 #8 247
2012 #18 247
2013 #6 247
2014 #12 247
2015 #13 247
2016 #15 247
2017 #11 247
In that period, Notre Dame signed nine 5-Star recruits, including Dayne Crist, Michael Floyd, Manti Te’o, Ishaq Williams, Max Redfield, and Jaylon Smith. Aaron Lynch is in there, too, but his Irish career was a little short. You could make a strong case that only Te’o and Smith lived up to their advance billing. Currently the Irish have not signed a 5-Star recruit since 2013.
During the period we’re looking at, the average 247 ranking is 12, or 11.5 for you “math” people. In other words, the Irish have been racking up recruiting classes that “should” translate into some healthy degree of success in the field. And yet, below is Notre Dame’s final season ranking during the same period:
Year Ranking (Coaches/AP)
So what does signing day in get you? For Notre Dame, it gets you a lot of coverage in the media, but not so much when your building a championship defense. Potential seems to be just that. In the last 10 seasons, Notre Dame has finished the season ranked in the Top 10 just twice and one of those seasons, 2012, was recently vacated. If signing day has shown us anything, it has shown us that the Irish have had a tough time turning the stars who shine under Friday Night Lights into stars on Saturday, at least insofar as the record is concerned.
That’s not to say that ND hadn’t developed its talent. On the contrary, Notre Dame has been putting up strong NFL draft classes. The challenge now is to finish seasons in the top ten, to compliment the “star power” harnessed on Signing Day.