Too many college staffs fumble NSD coverage

National Signing Day is like Christmas to college football fans, coaches and athletic directors.

For most college sports staffs, unfortunately, Wednesday might as well have been Arbor Day for the lack of timely coverage of football signings across the country.

While there’s a direct correlation between a team’s success and the quality of its recruits, according to Rivals.com, the relationship between college newspaper staffs and NSD is much more tenuous, even among student media covering traditional football powers. Sports staffs continue to wait until the next edition gets printed on paper to reveal news like this, an approach that is as antiquated as pica sticks and paste-up. There are exceptions, though, like student media at LSU, Michigan and Boise State, where staffs innovate and break news. Sadly, far too many sports staffs have failed to learn how to report in today’s media environment, where breaking news gets posted immediately – especially when readers have a voracious appetite for the content. Auburn fans, for instance, want to know who they’ve signed instantly – during a coffee break, while eating lunch or on their phones at any time.

That is just the way it is.

Several newspapers responded today, like Louisiana State’s student-run newspaper. As usual, theDaily Reveille did a stellar job covering National Signing Day by offering live updates as the 22 recruits signed their national letters of intent and also tweeting through the day. I really liked Ryan Ginn’s suggestion that more top-tier athletes, like Jadeveon Clowney, considered the No. 1-ranked prep player in the nation, should delay signing.

Likewise, Boise State’s The Arbiter did a wonderful job covering its new recruits by posting a story that includes video embedded from the coach’s press conference and a podcast where two sports staffers evaluated the signings.

Georgia’s Red & Black offered regular updates through its Twitter feed, offering a preview of potential signings in its print and online editions this morning that included a cool page with terrific info and perspective. Check it out.

Surprisingly, the Independent Alligator had not posted anything online beyond a preview as of 10 EST.

Indiana’s typically solid Hoosier Hype blog noted that two assistant coaches have left the team, but there’s nothing about any signings or other related football news. Not even on its Twitter feed.

The most recent sports news on the Auburn Plainsman’s website is three days old, sadly (not that there would have been any interest in the reigning national football champs today, right?) Oregon’s Daily Emerald also failed to offer information on the other team in this year’s national title game, posting only a preview to NSD online.

The Michigan Daily, meanwhile, blogged live from coach Brady Hoke’s  press conference, using a program, ‘Cover It Live,’ you might want to implement into your own sports section’s regular  coverage. In addition, the Daily staff also filed a solid overview story, a sidebar on a top-ranked tight end recruit, and several tweeted updates through the day.

Duke, it appears, is all basketball all the time. The Chronicle’s sports online is filled with previews from tonight’s game against Maryland. While the newspaper’s Twitter feed offers terrific updates from the hoops game, readers learned nothing about its new football recruits.

Kansas State’s Collegian covered all angles of its basketball game, tweeting interesting details through the night, but nothing on any signings, unfortunately. And there’s no coverage of NSD either on the website or the paper’s sports blog.

Here’s how several other college newspapers covered National Signing Day:

  • Ohio State’s The Lantern posted the following story on its latest haul – Talent in Ohio State’s 23-man Signing Day haul tops Big Ten.
  • Michigan State’s The State News reported on the Spartans signing 21 players.
  • The Daily Texan offered just a preview story. Nothing else online or on Twitter. An interesting note – the football coaching staff received raises that elevate the aggregate salary for nine assistants to $3.7 million, a sad reminder that college sports are getting more and more professional (and expensive.)
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About jgisondi

I covered sports and worked as a sports copy editor for more than 20 years at several newspapers in Florida, including the Fort Myers News-Press, Clearwater Sun, Florida Today and Orlando Sentinel. I started writing for a weekly sports publication in Coral Springs, Fla., at age 15. I have been hooked on sports journalism ever since. I was fortunate to have worked with some amazing editors along the way, journalists who took the time to help me even when my copy was not top-notch. Now, I teach journalism at Eastern Illinois University and work as an editor for Landof10.com, a vertical that focuses on Big Ten athletics. A second edition of the "Field Guide To Covering Sports" will be available sometime in February 2017. The book is a practical guide to preparing, observing, interviewing and writing about 20 different sports, from auto racing to wrestling. Chapters also address ways to cover high school sports, fantasy sports, to develop sports blogs. You can also learn how to cover games, to write features and to interview better. Fans can also learn basic rules of these sports, along with ways to better observe the action. New chapters in the second edition will address social media, advanced analytics, fantasy sports coverage and revised, expanded chapters address game coverage, features and columns, among other new sections.
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