Early Signing? Yes. But when?

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The American Football Coaches Association overwhelmingly is in favor of an early signing period. After opposing the issue for many years, I have come to the conclusion that it is time to set a date. But when?

According to an AFCA proposal, which was rejected by Division I conference commissioners, the coaches called for a three-year trial that would allow seniors to sign over three days during the third week of December, along with the current period that starts on the first Wednesday of February.

December? That makes no sense to me. Sept. 1 seems like a reasonable date to me. December is too close to the February signing day.

By last Sept. 1, for example, 50 to 75 percent of the top prospects had made oral commitments. The NCAA should establish a signing day before the season begins. Then kids can concentrate on their season and college coaches can spend time coaching and don't have to be on the road.

A Sept. 1 date would change the dynamics of the recruiting process as we know it today. There wouldn't be as many kids who would sign early as you might think. A lot of kids would rethink their commitments before they sign. Under the current system, they realize they can change their minds all the way to the Feb. 4 signing period.

It makes sense to set an early signing date because the wave of de-commitments and transfers are making college football look ridiculous. Kids change their minds from week to week. And the phrase "soft verbal" has become part of the terminology. In my view, if you are committed and want to look at other schools, you aren't committed.

A Sept. 1 date would save money for the colleges. They would be able to sign the no-brainers, the elite players who really want to go to school and are certain of their commitments. Yes, some kids would back off. But that's good. Colleges don't want to risk time and money on recruiting kids who aren't sure of what they want to do.

There should be one stipulation in all of this: If a college coach is fired or resigns, all of the kids that he has recruited should be released from their commitments.

I have no idea why the conference commissioners rejected the proposal. In all of my travels from coast to coast, a majority of coaches want an early signing period, like basketball. It would save money and grief. And it would reduce the level of embarrassment that afflict the colleges today.

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Tom, I agree with your points. The key caveat is that if the coach is fired or leaves the player is released from his commitment. That seems fair. Without that it is skewed toward the colleges and is not at all fair to the player. And I would add the players position coach to that caveat. From what I see the player develops a strong relationship with that position coach during their recruitment. That position coach leaves and all bets should be off as well.

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This page contains a single entry by Second Season published on January 23, 2009 9:47 AM.

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