The first hint was a cryptic e-mail bearing a 310 area code contact number.
"A major college recruiting announcement will be made this coming Saturday ... at the College Football Hall of Fame."
Okaaaay. Meaning what, exactly?
|Jimmy Clausen still has another season of high school ball before he plays a down at Notre Dame. (AP)|
Out stepped -- most notably -- a well-polished, spike-haired high-school junior quarterback flashing three huge high school championship rings on his right hand.
In terms of entrances, Jimmy Clausen outdid Don King, Don Corleone and Don Quixote combined.
"He's not a showboat," said Jeff Freedman, of the L.A. public relations firm that sent out the e-mail.
Well, if JC Superstar isn't a showboat, then Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis doesn't know football. Which is nonsense on both counts. But, to be fair, don't try to link these two together during Saturday's events.
All Weis did was show interest in the prospect from Westlake Village, Calif., who many think is the No. 1 player of the 2007 recruiting class. The Irish coach did a heck of a job recruiting and landing his prize.
Team Clausen took it from there. What happened in South Bend on Saturday thrust the utter absurdity of the recruiting process to another dimension.
Jimmy Clausen took the stage at the Hall on Saturday before a crowd of 300 drooling Domers and proudly announced his commitment to Notre Dame. The goal: "... to get four national championship rings," he said.
He didn't really say that, did he? You'd think that he/they would learn. Ron Powlus, in 1993, was the last ND quarterback recruit this celebrated. He couldn't even win measly Heisman Trophies.
That's a not-so-Wikipedia reference to Beano Cook, the old Irish honk who proclaimed Powlus would do just that. Beano was quickly on the radio Saturday alibing for Powlus. Again.
Well, if he hadn't been injured ...
Beano was also among the Irish faithful needing a spit cup after Clausen gave his non-binding oral commitment 17 months before the quarterback could throw his first official pass for Notre Dame.
CSTV recruiting analyst -- and some say Notre Dame loyalist -- Tom Lemming fell into line like, well, a lemming.
"This is the biggest announcement in the 25 years I've done this," Lemming said. "The message is that Notre Dame is back."
Yeah, well, let's get a bib for the saliva here, shall we?
It's not just Team Clausen and Notre Dame Nation who need perspective. The recruiting process has given these kids a sense of entitlement that goes beyond rational thought.
A P.R. firm?
Three hundred fans in attendance at a place honoring college's finest players to celebrate a kid who is 1½ years away from playing in his first college game?
It is absurd enough that recruits amateurishly enter the Daytime Emmy realm with signing day drama. You've seen it: Recruit puts three hats on a table, tries on two, discards them, then selects No. 3 as his school of choice.
Where is Monty Hall when you need him?
How many national championships will Jimmy Clausen win at Notre Dame?
Total Votes: 10,873
Let them have fun, you only do this once in life, they say.
They are part of a culture that demands commitments before the junior prom. People want to know. Hey, it's time to move on to the Class of 2008.
They are part of the machine that makes stars out of potential. Tailback Jason Gwaltney was West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez's best-ever recruit last year. Today, he's at a Long Island juco having bombed out of Morgantown. Source after source told me during a recent visit that it was as if Gwaltney couldn't believe he actually had to go to school.
They forget ranking recruiting classes is one of the most heinous crimes in existence. Pre-Weis, Notre Dame routinely turned top 10 recruiting classes into 6-6 seasons.
What's wrong with a little humility, some class?
We're forgetting that Clausen needs offensive linemen, running backs, receivers to fill his remaining fingers with jewelry.
Then there's the small matter of beating out Demetrius Jones and Zach Frazer, two incoming freshmen. We're guessing that after watching Saturday's dog and homey show, the pair are a bit more -- shall we say -- motivated?
For Dome's sake, he needs his health for four years -- wait, he isn't in the NFL already? -- to get those championship rings.
Clausen showed up at his coming-in party with a cast on his broken left hand. No worries for now. Surgery wasn't required, but it should be a reminder that these studs are just as close to a broken bone as they are a championship ring.
And speaking of motivation, if you're a high school defensive lineman playing against Clausen this fall, aren't you now more than ever wanting to take your shot -- legally, of course -- at the golden boy headed for the Golden Dome?
Clausen and Powlus apparently have bonded, which is good. Young Quarterback could use some pointers from Old Quarterback, who has been through the ND hype machine.
And Jimmy comes from fine football stock, but is anyone else having trouble remembering how many championships Rick (2004-2005) and Casey Clausen (2000-2003) won at Tennessee? We'll help out: none.
At Notre Dame, Jimmy is literally setting himself up to the point that an 11-1 season could be a disappointment.
"One thing Jimmy's not, he's not braggadocious," Freedman said. "He's very humble and very grounded. I've seen this kid for a while now. I've been amazed at how he handled it."
Handled it? The family orchestrated it. It wasn't a coincidence that the announcement came hours before Saturday's spring game, camera crew from a cable network trailing him.
In terms of hype, it was one of the more glorious days in recent Notre Dame history. It also made you want to grab the nearest bottle of Listerine to get the taste out of your mouth.
Clausen said he would immediately become a one-kid recruiting machine trying to lure other players to Notre Dame. He didn't have to travel far. A reported 30 blue-chip prospects watched the game before a record crowd.
In many ways, Notre Dame is back in terms of success on, off and around the field. This was the biggest "get" of the Charlie Weis era. In less than 1½ years on the job, Weis has won nine games, coached up Heisman frontrunner Brady Quinn and won over the hearts of Domers everywhere.
As Clausen himself put it, Weis is why the quarterback came to Notre Dame. After the silliness of Saturday, though, another entourage awaits.
"Expectations are going to follow him," Freedman said.
We're waiting on the press conference to announce that.