In the midst of the National Signing Day hullabaloo on Wednesday, South Pointe football coach Strait Herron paused for a second while leafing through one of the stacks of papers piled before him. North Greenville University didn’t include a fax number with their national letters of intent for Stallion football players Kyle Brandt and Nick Adams.
Herron moved on to the next stack of papers while athletic department secretary Nancy Konicki returned moments later with North Greenville’s fax number. South Pointe celebrated a school-best 15 student-athletes signing national letters of intent on Wednesday, the recruiting holiday known as National Signing Day.
It’s a recruiting “holiday” in every sense of the word, full of the joy and irritation that also accompany Thanksgiving or Christmas. Wednesday was a day of smiles, sighs of relief and awkward interviews with the media for the students and their families, but for Herron, Konicki, athletic director Mike Drummond and many others, it was a day of stress and juggling multiple tasks.
“Lot of paperwork, lot of logistics in making sure we have all the details for these athletes,” Drummond said. “But it’s worth it.”
Drummond said he felt like a “proud granddad” with so many student-athletes headed off to play college athletics. Because of the size of the party, he had to move the school’s 11:30 a.m. signing ceremony from the media center to the gymnasium. The lighting was far dimmer, to his chagrin, but it would have to do.
Drummond’s tall form buzzed around the crowd of more than 100 people with a microphone in hand, orchestrating the chaos. Herron showed up just as the ceremony was about to start with a thick stack of papers, the different football player’s stacks differentiated by a pink tab. A college coach texted him, asking where his soon-to-be players’ papers were. Herron ignored the message for the time being.
The success of South Pointe’s program is a good thing, but it does attract a lot of attention from colleges of all sizes from all over the country, especially in the days leading up to Feb. 5.
“They’re in here constantly, they’re texting me constantly, and it’s actually hard to get stuff done,” Herron said. “I’m so happy when this day comes, to get it over with.”
During the ceremony, he only stopped shuffling through the papers long enough to speak briefly into a microphone about each of his players, pose and smile for a photo with the player and his family, shake the dad’s hand and hug the mom, and then step aside to arrange the next.
After the football portion of the ceremony was over, Herron scooted off to Drummond’s office to put the fax machine to work. Fax machines probably have their busiest day of the year on Feb. 5, a funny thing because the people depending on the faxes largely don’t know how to use them anymore. Without the secretaries on both ends, Signing Day would be an even bigger struggle.
Some colleges, namely UCLA, are threatening the fax machine’s Signing Day relevance by allowing student-athletes to email photo-scanned national letters of intent. Herron said he’d prefer to do it that way, but not many schools have taken that step yet.
So, the fax machine it is. Herron slid a document into the fax’s mouth. The machine chirped and hooted, then spit it back out. Rejected.
“What’s this thing talking about?” he asks Konicki.
Konicki, who has that inherent magic touch secretaries possess, got it to work at the second asking. Meanwhile, Herron’s phone buzzed on the expansive oval table as it had almost incessantly since Monday. It’s the same nervous college coach, asking about his players’ papers.
“They want you to sign and send them first thing in the morning, but I teach two classes,” Herron said. “I just can’t do it.”
As annoying as National Signing Day paperwork can be, Herron had a good reminder of what it’s all about before Wednesday’s ceremony. A group of Saluda Trail Middle School students were in the South Pointe gym to watch the event, and the Stallion football coach told them they wouldn’t be able to partake in such an event without handling their academic responsibilities. National Signing Day is stressful and tedious at times, but Herron does love the result: a college education.
“There’s a lot of kids in this area, that’s a dream or a goal of theirs,” said Herron. “It’s a good part of it because we want to send kids off to the next level and help them as much as we can.”
Bret McCormick • 803-329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T