While we are waiting for Terrelle Pryor, the nation's top-rated player, to decide between Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Oregon, let us address what has emerged as the biggest story in college football recruiting--de-commitments.
Five years ago, the word wasn't even in the dictionary. Last year, more than 100 players made early commitments to Division I schools, then changed their minds and signed with another school. This year, the figure skyrocketed to over 200. Nearly every Division I school was affected.
I wasn't a big fan of adopting an early signing period for football, as in basketball, but it has become obvious to me that college football needs an early signing period to police the coaches.
College coaches can't help themselves from talking to committed players. They are too dedicated to their professions. They complain about coaches who continue to recruit players after they make early commitments--but almost all of them indulge in the practice.
What is the answer?
Aside from not allowing coaches to recruit high school prospects until after their senior year, a practice I doubt any coach would agree to, Sept. 1 should be established as an early signing date.
Coaches and kids would like it, I think, because it would give all of them an opportunity to concentrate on their seasons. And coaches wouldn't have to worry about kids de-commiting while they are trying to coach.
It also would cut down on early commitments. Kids commit in June and July nowadays because they know they can jump ship. They find a safe haven to land early, then look for some place better. Coaches do the same thing. They land a commitment, then continue to look for somebody better.
Remember, we're dealing with children and adults. In the business of recruiting, it isn't a fair matchup. Coaches are more to blame. They are poaching on other schools after a kid gives his word to one school. They don't honor the commitment. There should be more honor and integrity in college football. Coaches should honor a kid's word--but they don't.
Kids don't have to sign early, of course. If there is any doubt in their minds about which school is the best fit for them, don't sign. Now they can jump right out of it. They don't have to sign until February.
If a Sept. 1 early signing date is adopted, you will see fewer early commitments and more kids will wait to take official visits until after the season to compare schools instead of commiting to a school before he even visits the campus.
There are some new rules that will affect the recruiting process beginning this spring.
College coaches won't be permitted to attend combines. In my view, they were frivilous, gears to players who already had scholarship offers and didn't need the exposure. If they were designed for kids who are trying to make a name for themselves, they would be worth the time. But they aren't helping a majority of kids, only the sponsoring shoe companies or recruiting services that are trying to sell a product.
Another rule will prevent head coaches from going out in May to evalute kids at combines or camps or spring practices. As I see it, it hurts coaches like Notre Dame's Charlie Weis, Illinois' Ron Zook, Florida's Urban Meyer, Minnesota's Tim Brewster and Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald who have reputations for outworking their rival coaches.
They are on the road for every second they can in May. So the other coaches, who aren't as aggressive or energetic, passed the rule to prevent them from getting a recruiting advantage. In the past, head coaches could go out in May, the only time between signing day and the fall. Now it's been taken away from them.
In my view, the NCAA is punishing the coaches who want to work hard. They took away text messaging, too. The rules changes help the powerhouse teams, the Super Sixteen--or Ohio State, Michigan and Notre Dame in the Midwest--while leaving the others to play catchup. It isn't fair.