Jim Harbaugh decided it wasn’t enough to just announce his 2016 recruiting class and say a few words about each incoming player. Sorry, but that’s so 2010.

Coach Khakis doesn’t do conventional. He’s turning Michigan’s national signing day event into an Adrian Peterson birthday bash, minus the camels.

Harbaugh’s reported guest list for Michigan’s recruiting celebration includes Tom Brady, Derek Jeter, “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair, NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski and several musical artists of different genres.

Because what better way to announce a new incoming freshman class of football players than by assembling an eclectic mix of celebrities to fire up the masses?

As Flair undoubtedly will scream as the scholarships roll in, Woooo! To be the man, you gotta beat the man!

In the one-upmanship nature of college recruiting, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer should respond in kind by inviting Bill Gates, Taylor Swift and Bernie Sanders to welcome the next batch of Buckeyes.

That’s only if the Dalai Lama is too busy and can’t make it, of course.

Some people probably roll their eyes at creative recruiting tactics, but we should note that proceeds from Harbaugh’s celebrity event reportedly will go to fight childhood cancer. That’s a cause worthy of attention.

Rather than gnash teeth in a get-off-my-lawn screed, I’ve come to accept college recruiting — particularly in football — for what it is: Theater of the Absurd.

It’s like prom proposals. Used to be, a guy would walk up to a girl and say, “Got a date to prom yet? No? Cool, want to go?”

Now, the poor kid must deliver his invitation by skydiving onto a bed of rose petals with Adele singing softly in the background.

Recruiting remains the backbone of every program, a necessary evil that can be ridiculously fickle because it combines desperate coaches with the goofy whims of 17-year-old kids.

(I once read a Q&A in which a recruit claimed to have received interest from “Old Miss.” Well, the University of Mississippi was founded in 1848, so technically he wasn’t wrong.)

The cat-and-mouse game can drive fans bonkers, which is why the best way to monitor recruiting is to remain unemotional and believe nothing until the fax arrives.

Social media fuels recruiting hysteria, like handing a group of first-graders bullhorns during recess. Eventually the noise becomes unbearable.

National signing day brings finality to months — or sometimes years — of coaches fawning over recruits. Recruiting websites then grade teams by rankings that, frankly, mean very little after the top 20 or so.

The rankings and star system serve some purpose because they separate the elite from the rest. There’s a reason why Nick Saban has built a dynasty at Alabama, and it’s not just because of his coaching acumen. He also annually signs blue-chip recruiting classes.

Here’s the thing about rankings: Fans hype them when their team scores high and mock them when they score low. Truth is, the difference between 25th and 50th is probably negligible.

Rivals.com ranked the Gophers’ 2002 recruiting class No. 55 nationally. That class was filled with two- and three-star recruits, guys such as Greg Eslinger, Mark Setterstrom, Matt Spaeth, Anthony Montgomery and Bryan Cupito.

That group fared OK — Eslinger won the Outland Trophy; Setterstrom became an All-America; Spaeth won the John Mackey Award and plays for the Steelers; Montgomery played in the NFL; Cupito finished as the school’s all-time leading passer.

As of Monday afternoon, Rivals ranked the Gophers’ current class No. 46. That could change depending on who officially signs, specifically three-star receiver Dredrick Snelson of Florida.

Snelson committed to the Gophers months ago but began looking at other schools. Nobody seems to know where he will end up.

He posted a photo of himself in a Penn State uniform on his Twitter account but told Rivals affiliate GopherIllustrated.com later that “this is for my Gopher fans — don’t ever question my loyalty.”

Reminds me of former Hutchinson offensive lineman Lydon Murtha, whose recruitment I chronicled before signing day.

In the buildup, I wrote a feature on Murtha, who had committed to the Gophers early and spoke glowingly about his love for the program.

The story was scheduled to run on a Sunday. On Friday, a call came informing me that Murtha was making an official visit to Nebraska.

The initial headline on the story read “Staying Home.” I quickly rewrote the piece and told our copy desk we needed a new headline.

The headline on Sunday read: “Staying Home?”

Ric Flair would’ve loved that bit of improvisation.


Chip Scoggins chip.scoggins@startribune.com