ESPN’s annual National Signing Day coverage has existed in variations over the years, but became a staple on the ESPN calendar with the launch of ESPNU. In 2006, still in its first calendar year of operation, ESPN’s new 24-hour college sports network dedicated a six-hour show to signing day with ESPN2 simulcasting an hour of the program. Immediately, it was clear there was an appetite for the coverage.
“At that time, recruiting and Signing Day was becoming more popular among fans, particularly on the Internet, but had yet to find a home on television,” recalled senior director of programming and acquisitions Dan Margulis, who worked on ESPNU’s Signing Day coverage starting in 2007.
Fast forward to 2016 and that appetite has resulted in ESPN delivering fans a full-fledged meal. A six-hour special has morphed into an all-day event, across five networks with reporters at 15 schools across the nation and more than 30 digital streams on ESPN3 and SEC Network +.
Now, in its 11th year, ESPNU remains the backbone of ESPN’s coverage.
“As a company, our commitment to college football is to support the sport on a high-level every day of the year,” said Margulis. “National Signing Day is the start of the new college football season and it is important that we serve our fans in the most comprehensive way we can.”
ESPNU’s Charlotte-based production began its coverage at 8 a.m. ET this morning and will continue until 7 p.m. ET with ESPN2 airing the coverage from 1 p.m.-5 p.m. SEC Network will also air its five-hour (10 a.m.–3 p.m.) special out of Charlotte today, while the Austin office produces Longhorn Network’s (8 a.m. – 1 p.m.) special as well.
The Bristol and Los Angeles offices began the live Signing Day coverage very early this morning. Live from the Los Angeles studios Brandon Burton, an ESPN 300 player, committed to UCLA on the midnight edition of SportsCenter featuring Scott Van Pelt. Throughout today, 13 more college recruits will commit live on ESPN networks, including the No. 1 recruit Rashan Gary, which will be carried on ESPN2 (approximately 1 p.m.).
“It’s great seeing the emotion of a college recruit and his family as they continue the pursuit of their dream,” said senior coordinating producer Shawn Murphy. “For fans, leading up to Signing Day, they have heard for weeks, months and sometimes a year about a hot recruiting prospect interested in their own school, a rival school or often both. Having a select number of the top recruits announce live provides drama for fans and also helps the student-athlete celebrate a monumental day.”