Road to BCS paved with letters of intent

Originally Published: January 5, 2005
By Beano Cook | ESPN Insider
The national letter-of-intent day was Feb. 2 – Groundhog Day, and you know immediately what's going to happen – at least for the Groundhog.

Unfortunately, college football programs must wait at least two to three years to learn the results of their work.

There are individual exceptions, of course. Vince Dooley surely knew what he had when Herschel Walker stepped onto the Georgia campus in 1980. Same with former Pittsburgh coach John Majors, who snagged Tony Dorsett in 1973.

But by and large, it takes time to judge the depth of a recruiting class.

The first athlete to make big news when he announced his college decision was Wilt Chamberlain, who picked Kansas in 1955.

Martellus Bennett
Many players now announce their decisions on television.
Nowadays, most of these marquee athletes have press conferences at restaurants with ESPNEWS poised for a live telecast. It's the result of the cottage industry that recruiting, fueled and fanned by the Internet, has become.

The letter-of-intent, initiated in 1964 by Texas Tech faculty representative Dr. William Davis, has made life bearable for coaches.

Joe Paterno wishes there had been a letter-of-intent in 1957, because Mike Ditka would have signed it after originally committing to Penn State. To this day, almost 50 years later, Paterno considers Ditka his most disappointing recruiting loss.

Beano Cook

College Football
Carroll H. "Beano" Cook joined ESPN in March 1986 and served as a college football studio commentator and occasional sideline reporter, in addition to offering college football commentary on ESPN Radio. He died in October 2012.