Wednesday, February 04, 2009
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Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Signing day special: Blue chips and dip

National signing day has arrived for college football, which begs the question: Where's the party?

Sadly, not here.

Oh, today there will be signings, letter faxings, updated tickers, bios, photos, all that official stuff.

But where are the buffalo wings? The beers? The heavy hors d'oeuvres?

And most importantly, where's the excuse to blow off work?

Virginia and Virginia Tech are not providing those things. This is a gross failure on the part of both institutions.

National signing day is growing, evolving, becoming the must-see event of the offseason.

And you're telling us we can't get loaded among friends while it's happening?

Portland State's not saying that. Vikings fans are invited to Buffalo Wild Wings in downtown Portland tonight to tip a few back and listen to coach Jerry Glanville extol the virtues of each signee.

Portland State went 4-7 last year in Division I-AA. Tech, as you might recall, won the ACC and the Orange Bowl.

Western Kentucky's offering food, drinks and tours of the football facility. Georgia Tech's breaking out "light appetizers" and a cash bar at its gathering. Tulane's slinging free food and beverage on campus at 6 p.m.

Tech and UVa? Nothin'.

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OK, that's not entirely fair. Tech is having a "signing ticker" on its Web site today. It updates automatically. And -- get a load of this -- "fans can view a complete roster as it builds" each time a national letter of intent is received by the coaching staff.

(Feel free to view this at work. Then, when a new player is added, turn to an office mate, high five him or her and shout, "This party rocks!")

Virginia coach Al Groh is holding a press conference this evening. That's good for the media and by extension the fans, and we do appreciate it. But the small gathering that follows the press conference is by invitation only -- no public festival.

Regular fans want bleu cheese, too.

Mississippi State supporters will get plenty. That program is holding three separate national signing day parties around the state today -- one in Meridian, one in Tupelo and one in Jackson. So you've got an enviable choice there. Take off work to go to The Chili House, or head to campus to wolf down Bulldog Deli sandwiches. Either way, you get a football fix with a side o' good times.

Southern Miss is having two parties. One's at a casino and will feature former standout Reggie Collier. You're telling me we couldn't get Bryan Randall back to Blacksburg or Shawn Moore to Charlottesville?

In Tallahassee, they're having something called the "2009 Florida State Football National Signing Day Spectacular." Obviously, ol' Bobby Bowden still knows how to get down.

UNLV's having a party. So is Maryland. Wofford had one last year.

Wofford!

Frank and Al, are you paying attention?

Rickey Bustle is. The former Hokies offensive coordinator, now the coach at Louisiana-Lafayette, will see his campus in a festive mood tonight. The Ragin' Cajuns party, sponsored by a bank, will feature free food, soft drinks, alcohol, a raffle and an auction.

The signing ticker's feeling a little intimidated now.

And don't tell us we already know who the signees are. That makes no difference. If people will take off work to watch a groundhog see his shadow, you'd better believe Hokies and Wahoos would find a way to be at a signing party -- surprises or not.

The gold standard of signing day parties, of course, is at LSU. The "Bayou Bash," held annually since 1996, likely will be attended by thousands today.

Tickets are $40, and nobody minds.

We're not asking for that kind of shindig yet. We'd settle for a 12-pack of Mellow Yellow, some free hot dogs and a little fellowship. Hold it at the Merryman Center, next to the empty trophy case.

Heck, for one merry day, we'll pretend that thing's not even there.

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