Relic or required? Fax still a key player on national signing day

Outdated technology returns to the fore for college commitments.
Athletes still put pen to paper on national signing day, and even with all the technological advances, most will be faxing their letters of intent. (Times file)
Athletes still put pen to paper on national signing day, and even with all the technological advances, most will be faxing their letters of intent. (Times file)
Published February 2 2016
Updated February 3 2016

TAMPA — They text and tweet proficiently, study game tape on laptops and even dabble in emojis.

But for one frenetic February day, USF's coaches concede to the technological equivalent of the wing-T. Modernity takes a backseat to a modem.

"The fax machine is set up and we're gonna have a war room (on national signing day)," Bulls football spokesman Brian Siegrist acknowledged.

"They do anticipate many faxes."

Whether the Bulls will celebrate their signing day bounty by raising glasses of new Coke and blaring hair metal over a boombox remains unclear. What remains certain is, USF hardly will be the only program forced to dust off its 20th-century, paper-spewing relic on recruiting's watershed day.

Though letters of intent may be submitted electronically these days with electronic signatures (if it's the replica of a signature), many recruits still do it the old-school method, employing a cumbersome apparatus that was nearing obsoleteness when they were born.

"I think a lot of times people get confused and think we mandate (faxes)," National Letter of Intent director Susan Peal told in 2014. "And that's not the case at all. It's their choice."

Siegrist said according to USF's compliance department, roughly 80 percent of letters of intent are still faxed to the Bulls. University of Florida spokesman Steve McClain said about 90 percent of the Gators' letters of intent arrived via fax last winter.

UCF's Brian Ormiston said all letters received by the Knights in the past have been faxed, but some emails (presumably with scanned copies of the letters in pdf format) are expected today.

Pasco High coach Tom McHugh said his signees' letters will be faxed. So did Hillsborough's Earl Garcia and East Bay's Frank LaRosa. Bucking signing day convention, Jesuit's Matt Thompson said his school now does it the newfangled way.

"We do have a fax machine," he said, "but really we just scan it into the computers and just (send it) back. … It's kind of antiquated using a fax machine."

Similarly, Plant football coach Robert Weiner said where permissible, he'll also send the Panthers' letters of intent electronically, snapping a photo and sending it to the school of choice. Functional phrase: Where permissible.

While indicates the electronic transmission of letters is allowed, it adds: "Be sure to follow the institution's instructions for signing and returning the NLI and athletics aid agreement to the institution."

And apparently, some still prefer the retro route.

"(Stanford) will not take the photo, they need the fax," said Weiner, who will fax the Cardinal a letter of intent from Panthers defensive tackle Bo Peek this morning. "I think some schools are still old-school and not quite moving along with that yet."

As a result, the fax remains that mint-green Model-A at the annual Founder's Day Parade: A relic to be dusted off, rolled out and gawked over once a year.

Cue the busy signal, and pray for no paper jams.

"These fax machines get busy on signing day," Weiner said with a chuckle. "You may as well send it by carrier pigeon."