Fax or fiction: Do recruits still commit by fax machine on Signing Day?

Fax or fiction: Do recruits still commit by fax machine on Signing Day?

Signing Day 2017

BTN aired eight hours of live National Signing Day coverage.

P.J. Fleck is just 36 years old, but he’s old-school when it comes to Signing Day. The wunderkind coach of Minnesota likes his recruits to send in their letters-of-intent via the fax machine.

That’s right: Fax machine (short for “facsimile). For most schools, the fax machine has gone the way of the dial-up internet access and VCRs. It’s passé, it’s history. Today, the most common way for recruits to sign on with the school of their choice is to email their letter-of-intent. National Signing Day is Wednesday.

“We have e-mail on backup,” Fleck told me. “But there is something entertaining on that day for the staff to hear the beep of the fax and wait for the actual fax to come through. Signing Day is a major event for our staff, university and program. And that’s one of those things that brings anticipation into the mix. It brings an old school aspect to the new age.”

There was a time not long ago when fax machines ran hot on signing day across the nation. Coaches would huddle around the Fax in their office, reading the Fax and it was spit out to see which of their future stars had officially signed on. But the rules were changed a few years ago to allow a more convenient and modern way to send in a letter of intent.

Susan Peal, the director of the National Letter of Intent, has been encouraging email over faxes for several years.

“Seventeen and 18-year olds don’t know what a fax machine is or where to find one,” Peal said. “There are more efficient ways to do it than a fax. We have tried to streamline everything out of the NLI office. But it is up to schools how they want to do it. A lot in the last few years are using electronic signatures, mobile apps where you can send Adobe PDFs and things like that.”

Then Peal puts it more succinctly: “Who knows where to find a fax? I don’t know where to find one in our office.”

Northwestern is on-board with both feet totally planted in the technology of 2017.

“We transitioned probably two or three years, as soon as it was legally allowed to be delivered electronically,” said Chris Bowers, Northwestern’s director of player personnel. “That has been efficient for us. We may get a fax or two.”

Bowers says most of NU’s recruits already have been emailed their paper work. Then, he expects the documents returned via email. Recruits can begin sending in their paperwork to NU at 7 a.m. in their time zone on Wednesday.

“Our compliance director sets up shop in our offices,” Bowers said. “Ninety-nine percent of our NLIs come back emailed. We deliver them via email. The kid can print it and sign it, scan it, send it back. We have a fax, too. Before we announce anything, our compliance director will give us the OK that is it all good. It’s official.

“Who would use a fax machine?” said Bowers. “It’s archaic.”

Mr. Fleck, your rebuttal?

“If someone wants to email, they can,” Fleck said. “But I like the fax.”

And just in case you think Fleck is joking, his staff has backup a fax machine just in case.

“I can’t wait to start hearing the beeps,” Fleck said.

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Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer

About Tom Dienhart: BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, and send him questions to his weekly mailbag.

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