Wednesday represented a huge day for the exploding business of college football recruiting. For sites like Rivals, Scout, 24/7, and ESPN recruiting, this is Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Year's Day all wrapped into one. But on the biggest day of the year for the recruiting industry, the most powerful recruiting site on the web had an embarrassing breakdown.
Rivals.com, with an estimated 200,000 subscribers paying nearly $100 per year for a subscription, crashed on National Signing Day. Rivals was bought by Yahoo in 2007 for an estimated $100 million and has more than twice the subscribers of 2nd and 3rd placed Scout.com and 24/7. Amongst the lucrative online recruiting industry, the Rivals crash was the talk of the day as the company tried to shift readers to their mobile site.
— Eric Fisher (@EricFisherSBJ) February 5, 2014
You can thank Rivals being down. RT @NoahStanley247: New member numbers are way better than anticipated today.
— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) February 5, 2014
http://t.co/UPdOnahFpe site is down, which is like Santa having diarrhea on Christmas eve.
— John Walters (@jdubs88) February 5, 2014
Rivals exists entirely for this day. I mean, that's it. And you crash? It gets more unbelievable the more you think about it.
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravisBGID) February 5, 2014
Rivals immediately took to Twitter to apologize to its subscribers and offer a make-good for failing on the most important day of the year. Both the Rivals site and message boards were compromised during the NSD frenzy.
We will continue to work to improve our site & bring the best product that you as loyal @Rivals users deserve. Today was not acceptable.
— Rivals.com (@Rivals) February 5, 2014
— Eric Winter (@elwinter) February 5, 2014
Ironically, Rivals head Eric Winter told AL.com before National Signing Day that the technology of the recruiting behemoth was out of date in an incredible bit of foreshadowing, "We're living on an older technology. Once you put a Rolls Royce inside the engine, nothing will stop us." Oops.
While Rivals was in crisis mode, at least one rival was touting a record day of traffic. 24/7 wrote that their network crossed 1 million unique visitors and had almost 15 million pageviews on National Signing Day alone.
Even the biggest websites go down and have outages from time to time – it's a part of the deal with the devil that is made with technology. But when subscribers are paying to access a site and its content, any outage is going to hurt much more than when it happens on a free site. And when that happens on your showcase day of the year, it's magnified 100-fold.
Imagine NBC, CBS, or ABC News sites going down on Election Day or NFL Sunday Ticket being unavailable to fans for the first Sunday of the NFL season. Timing is everything in life, and it couldn't have been worse for Rivals yesterday. It'll be interesting to see whether or not their National Signing Day crash has an impact in closing the gap between Rivals and its competitors in the recruiting industry.