The discussion about whether college football should change their signing period continues to be debated amongst high school coaches, college coaches and administrators. Would adopting an early signing day period be beneficial to college football? Several other sports including basketball already have multiple signing periods, so why not football. Wes and Jonathan take a closer look at the pinnacle of the recruiting season.
I would like the signing period to stay in its current structure. I will start by selfishly saying I like the one-day, big event showcase that the first Wednesday in February has become. Signing day is a late Christmas for some of us. Having separate signing days waters down the event.
Now for reasons not involving my own selfishness, I still like the current structure. I think the athletes benefit most from the current structure and that should be the main concern. I understand that it leaves the program in a bind when players bail at the last second, but these are 18-year old kids. I know how I was at that age and cannot tell you for certain how things would have transpired if I were in their shoes. I do think the high schools and coaches should take a more active role in helping these kids understand the ramifications of their decisions/verbal commitments. I think it would be great if school districts had a recruiting coordinator who worked with the athletes and schools to equip them to make the best decision possible for themselves but that is a totally different discussion. Additionally they could be used as a filter to keep the recruits shielded from the barrage of coaches and media that hound them once they have shut recruiting down. As far as signing days goes.....
First of all the athlete doesn't feel pressured to make an early decision if the current structure remains. Yes some prospects decide early the college they want to attend and they shut recruiting down. That's great for them. Others want to take their time, but would get pressured from coaches to pull the trigger during early signing period. Many people forget that this decision is not a four or five year decision, but the college they choose impacts the rest of their lives. At some point, they need to make a decision but let's give them the time to do it. In the case of Jarrett Stidham (which I assume a comment or two will be made about him), an early signing period would probably have had him sporting red and black as I type this but instead he is sporting Green and Gag, I mean Gold. The reality is sometimes it works against you (Stidham) and sometimes it works for you (JF Thomas).
Another argument for the athletes is that coaches change jobs. Yes you can currently get out of your scholarship in some cases if your coach leaves the university for whatever reason. At this point that is a rare occurrence though, because most coaching decisions are made between the season's end and the end of January. This leaves the athletes the ability to change their plans prior to signing their letter of intent. With an early signing period, this would create an entirely new set of problems for athletes who had signed their letters of intent. They would need to reopen their recruitment late in the process when there is a possibility lots of schools would have no more room. Then they start the whole process over when they thought they were done with it.
Let's be honest the schools play the numbers game against athletes all the time. They are not innocent bystanders who get the raw end of the deal with a recruit flips. Schools ask kids to gray shirt at the last second. They pull scholarship offers to make way for a bigger name prospect at the last second. From the accounts I read Colin Wilder got the cold shoulder from the Tech staff and not even the common courtesy of a phone call to let them know that with the defensive coordinator change they were no longer interested in him. I can't confirm whether or not that is 100% accurate, but regardless this type of thing happens.
My opinion is that this is an agenda the schools are pushing and not looking out for the kids' best interests, which is why I support the current structure.
National Signing Day is a great spectacle and a huge deal is made of it, at the high schools, at the colleges, and all over national media, especially ESPN. Fans of specific teams and of the sport of college football are waiting to hear if their school landed the next Marcus Dupree or which big name program he goes to. I believe this practice needs to be changed as the education of the players should be the top priority.
Colleges and the NCAA have stated that the reason student athletes don't get paid is due to the fact that they are students first and athletes second. However, on the first Wednesday of February, these same institutions are more than willing to pull 17 and 18 year old high school students out of the classroom in order to show the nation the next big thing in the high dollar business that is college football. These students are signing up for the football program, not for the education that they will now be receiving.
Regardless of the student vs athlete discussion, the main topic here is about the day that transition happens. Although I do believe a deadline for students to sign is needed, I do not think a specific day for all signing is needed. High school football is over by early to mid-December, yet recruits have another 6 weeks to ponder their decision. During the season, the recruits are heavily watched and visited, and they are playing their hearts out for these recruiters. Their minds are solely focused on football. Then they have 6 weeks to ponder their decision. A holiday break, and a period when a recruit is not allowed to be contacted. This period can allow for secondary and outside influences to change the minds of the recruits.
If the recruit were able to sign an official letter of intent as soon as the season is over, would they? Some recruits know without a doubt where they are going to want to play in college during their senior season of high school. Certain recruiting staffs and coaches will focus on a single player in a single position and feel that the recruit is fully committed, and the recruit may even say so. At this point, the coaches may focus their attention elsewhere, and if the recruit decides to change their mind, whether at the last minute, or late in the game, it can put the school in a deep hole.
The recruit commits to the school, but how often does the school commit to the recruit? If a recruit fell in love with a program and was promised playing time and a roster spot they could potentially sign in the middle of the season. Then the following week, a higher rated player of the same position could show significant interest. How many schools would keep their promises to a three star recruit if a four or five star is willing to sign?
I look forward to National Signing Day every year to see which recruits our beloved Red Raiders have snatched up. I loved listening to the radio interviews with a few of our recruits this past recruiting season, eagerly awaiting their impact on our team. However, when the emotion from sports wears off and the realization of what the recruits go through to become part of what we love, the process seems to be flawed.