From the archives: Low-tech fax machine has its day in the sun

This story originally appeared on Feb. 2, 2012.

Members of the North Texas media staff crowded around a room Wednesday using the latest tools in instant communication to keep the Mean Green fandom up to date on every development of National Signing Day.

The manner in which they got their information, though, would have made Steve Jobs wince.

“Mark Lewis is in, “ said one staffer, passing a piece of fax paper through various hands as if it were classroom syllabi.

When it comes to signing, sealing and delivering a high-priority and time-sensitive National Letter of Intent, North Texas - like every other university - is decidedly old-school.

In the iAge, where practical technology is as common as a cold, colleges and universities employ the tools of the Jurassic Age: the pen... a piece of paper... and that newfangled gizmo, the fax machine.

At North Texas, 24 prospects signed on Wednesday and each of them sent their paperwork via the fax. This in a day when Hancock would’ve been made famous by an electronic signature.

As the joke goes, National Signing Day is the only day of relevance for the fax machine.

That is until North Texas coach Dan McCarney lends perspective. Coaches once were allowed to be at a recruit’s home for the signing.

“I remember flying, driving and speeding tickets and all that stuff, “ said McCarney, who has been in Division I football since 1971 as a player at Iowa. “Sitting outside homes and getting the great news or learning you lose guys, literally with papers in hand hoping it’s you.

“For years and years and years, that’s all we knew.”

The National Letter of Intent program, which oversees the processing of athletic scholarship protocol, actually does encourage student-athletes to e-mail coaches a signed and scanned letter of intent.

Eugene Byrd, a former track and field All-American at Florida, hopes to be the driving force in digitizing this dinosaur age with Esigningday, which he said would make the signing process more efficient and save universities money.

Kaitlyn Kissell on Wednesday made history, Byrd said, becoming the first student-athlete to sign electronically, with Gannon University in Pennsylvania.

“There’s no more mailing, no more faxing, “ said Byrd, who before Esigningday worked in athletic administration at Florida, William & Mary and the Southeastern Conference. He was the one-time director of the National Letter of Intent program.

This cuts costs by as much as $15,000, he said, and cuts their processing time by 80 percent.

Byrd’s is a web-based system that bridges all the bureaucracies of the signing process, including compliance, the athletic director, financial aid and the coach. When all the documents are signed by the various athletic and university officials, an e-mail is sent to the student-athlete, who opens a link and signs the letter on a tablet, laptop, or personal computer with a stylus, mouse or even a finger.

Byrd said the National Letter of Intent program has informed him that a signature and date of time for each person are needed to validate an electronic process.

Resistance to changing a process that has worked for decades is at the heart of delaying a transition, Byrd believes.

“All I’m doing is introducing a product and process that will streamline this process and make it simple for everyone involved, “ Byrd said.

There might be another reason, too. Coaches simply don’t care. Ultimately, it’s about getting your guys. And that’s done old-school.