An Earlier Signing Day? Why Not Later?

2017 recruiting just finished up a week and a half ago, and already teams have numerous 2018 commitments for players who will sign almost a full year from now. It is an insane recruiting acceleration for some players to commit before they’ve played one game in their junior season. But they are non-binding commitments subject to changing minds of both players and schools.

At the 2017 American Football Coaches Association Convention last month there was a lot of support for a formal proposal to add an early signing day in December allowing seniors already committed to make it official earlier in the process (in addition to the existing February date).

Rather than move signing day up, maybe it is time make it later. About a dozen years ago the PAC 10 (they had ten teams then) advanced a proposal to radically alter the football recruiting calendar. It was a rational proposal that unfortunately never gained traction.

They proposed postponing the signing day two to three weeks later in February and delaying off-campus recruiting visits with prospects until January. Coaches would not be on the road in December to recruit.

There was a multi-pronged rationale:

1. Keeping coaches home in December allowed them to be around their players as the academic semester ended as well as to be there for bowl game preparation.

2. Recruits gained another month of academics in December without coaches pulling them out of class for in-school visits.

3. A later signing day plus the elimination of early offers and commitments would give Universities a chance to have more academic, athletic and medical information on recruits before awarding them a scholarship worth six-figures.

These are all sound reasons, ones strengthened since that time by another reason to wait. Players signing early in December may sign before the coach that recruited them gets fired, or bolts for another school or to the NFL. An early signee could be signed to a school where they may not fit in with a new coach’s scheme or with a coach that doesn’t want them.

Also, because schools often fire a coach in-season to get a jump on December recruiting, moving the calendar back could lessen that pressure. When a new coach is hired the later recruiting would allow time to assemble a staff and spend time with his new team’s current players before leaving campus to recruit.

While it makes sense this proposal runs into an impatient social media-driven recruiting industry: an industry with its own services, media and season. The idea of waiting and getting a decision right for all the right reasons runs counter to everything we’re doing now.

While we may think we need to speed things up, slowing the process down may be a better course of action. With all that is at stake for these players shouldn’t we sacrifice the expediency in recruiting that fans want so young men can make more educated decisions about their academic and athletic futures?

Just a thought…

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