Mark Wiedmer: A holiday with joy, or anguish, based on faxes

Mark Wiedmer: A holiday with joy, or anguish, based on faxes

February 6th, 2013 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

A few minutes after 7 this morning, Jason Gordon will pick up a large bag of doughnuts and a couple of oversized coffees and make his way to best buddy Chris Baumunk's home.

"We'll set up a bunker, turn on ESPNU and wait for the faxes to roll in," Gordon said. "For Alabama fans like us, it's a little like Christmas to see the spoils you get from what Coach [Nick] Saban has built."

Welcome to another edition of the South's unofficial holiday, or as it's known throughout the rest of the country: national signing day.

"The last gasp of the college football season," Gordon said.

"It's one of our two or three highest [website] traffic days," said Jimmy Stanton, the University of Tennessee's associate athletic director of communications. "It's kind of like You might think their highest traffic day would be during the World Series, but it's actually draft day.

"Regardless of what happened during the season, signing day's a time when hope for a brighter future permeates your fan base."

Partly because of that, UT will send new football coach Butch Jones across the state Thursday morning to discuss his first recruiting class, beginning with a breakfast in Memphis and continuing with a lunch in Nashville and dinner in Knoxville (sorry, Chattanooga).

But long before then, the emotional health of the Big Orange Nation will either feel joyous or jilted depending on the decisions of such high-profile recruits as Ridgeland High School's Vonn Bell or Alabama prep running back Johnathan "Rudy" Ford.

Pointing out that each of his football coach's Thursday gatherings is already sold out, UT's Stanton said, "Our fans follow recruiting as much as they do what's going on on the field."

It's not just Tennessee fans.

Georgia backer David Schlosser won't take a day off from work as fellow BlueCross BlueShield employee Gordon did, but that doesn't mean he won't try to keep up with the latest news on the Georgia Bulldogs' recruiting class.

"I'll try to check the Dawg Vent [website] pretty regularly," Schlosser said. "I don't think there are a lot of cliffhangers with [UGA's] class. Most everybody's already committed and ready to sign."

One player not committed early Tuesday evening that the Dawgs desperately want is lineman Laremy Tunsil from Florida.

"I've heard his girlfriend and his brother have both received academic scholarships to Ole Miss," Schlosser said. "I just hope we still have a chance."

Fellow Dawgs disciple Toby Myers also will be at work at SecureWaters Inc., and like Schlosser he expects UGA to do well.

"I'll probably spend some time following the last few signings, but I feel good about Georgia's recruiting," Myers said. "I think we've had another good year."

It is reasonable to wonder what large companies such as BlueCross or TVA think of this distraction, especially in towns such as our Scenic City, where the fan bases are both so proud and so splintered.

"We understand that our most important task it to provide power to our customers," said Chattanooga-based TVA spokesman Mike Bradley. "But we also know that football loyalties run deep in our seven-state region (Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia). I'm sure keeping up with signing day will be on the agenda for many of our employees."

Added BlueCross spokesman Roy Vaughn: "We haven't said anything to our employees [about not following signing day news]. With smart phones, I'm sure everybody who wants to can keep up with it that way, anyway. For a few years we've encouraged people on 'casual Friday' during football season to wear their school jerseys. Maybe we should encourage jersey wearing on national signing day."

For Gordon and Baumunk such fashion decisions will be easy. They'll just hunker in their bunker as Saban corrals another stunning class in his determination to three-peat as BCS champ.

And regarding any concern they might have for Bama recruit Reuben Foster sporting an Auburn tattoo, Gordon said, "I don't care what tattoos he has as long as he plays well."

If there has become any certainty in college football from the season's first breath to its last gasp, it's that while everyone has reason to hope, Alabama always seems to recruit well and play better than everybody else.