Time For Early Signing Period Has Arrived

In his weekly recruiting column for Hawgs Illustrated, Dudley E. Dawson writes about what makes him in favor of an Aug. 1 early football signing period - something Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema is on board with as well. This story is free courtesy NWA Chevy Dealers. Click the banner to learn more.

One of the hot-button topics at this week's SEC Meetings in Destin, Fla., has been the possibility of an early signing period for college football.

As someone who has covered recruiting for almost 30 years now, I am 100 percent in favor of this – especially if it is August 1, a date the ACC proposed earlier this month.

The SEC has tossed out the day after Thanksgiving as a potential date – something I think is better than just having the February one, but certainly not as good as August.


Mostly because there is an ever-increasing number of football prospects deciding in the spring and summer where they plan to sign anyway.

Right now there are 136 prospects already committed to the SEC's 14 schools and it's not even the end of May yet.

Alabama has the most at 16, Auburn has 14 while Ole Miss's 6 (including Nashville wideout LaMichael Pettway) - and Vanderbilt's 2 pledges are at the opposite end of the spectrum.

The other 10 league teams are averaging right at about 10 each right now.

Giving prospects the opportunity to sign early and totally concentrate on the season – instead of just providing lip service and still having to take the onslaught of calls from coaches and reporters - would be a major positive to me.

"I think everyone wants an early signing period," noted Susan Pearl, the NCAA Associate Director of Operations and the administrator of the organization's letter-of-intent program. "It's just trying to nail down what's the appropriate date for that.

"I think there's more momentum now than ever just because of the changes that are happening with recruiting regulations," Pearl added. "The landscape is changing, so it's time to look at it again."

Certainly Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema is on board as evidenced by his comments to reporters in Destin.

"Here's the deal, the early signing period in my mind allows a kid, say, from Arkansas, who wanted to be a Hog his whole life, he commits his sophomore year, junior year, and he can sign before his senior year, and then nobody recruits him, nobody can touch him," Bielema said. "His high school coach is happy because he's got a scholarship, doesn't worry about him not playing."

I have no doubt that the eight current 2015 commits that Arkansas has pledged to it would all sign in August if the opportunity was there to do so.

All eight – several of whom are poised to be early enrollees – have expressed how they can't wait to get to Fayetteville to start their college career.

Those enrolling early can sign a financial letter-of-intent with their chosen school as of Aug. 1 – but it is binding only for the school and not for the athlete as a letter-of-intent is.

Also a prospect can sign financial letters-of-intent with as many schools as he would like – albeit only the first school can announce it after a rule change by the NCAA in December after one prospect signed four.

Georgia head coach Marc Richt made a solid point about how the early signing period would be good for the coaches as well since they wouldn't be chasing so many kids.

"If a guy knows where he's going, wants to go and he makes that decision early, then everybody can focus on who's left," Georgia head coach Mark Richt said. "You don't have to continue to go see that kid on a weekly basis and spend the money on that kind of recruiting a guy who's solidly committed. There's other reasons why other divisions of football would like it, as well. (It would) kind of help them sort out where everybody's going and have a better chance to focus on the ones that there's a more realistic shot for them to get."

Richt is not for the August date – citing it would give coaches no summer, which is just silly seeing as how the number of recruiting days will stay the same and just be different on the calendar.

"One of the other leagues proposed Aug. 1," Richt said. "We think that would be crazy. We think there would be no summer for anybody, no sanity for anybody."

That was a sentiment echoed by Greg Sankey, the SEC's executive associate commissioner and chief operating officer.

"The ACC decision is not something that was identified as a solution that was practical," Sankey said.

It's not any more flawed than what the SEC came out with Wednesday.

Under the SEC proposal, only those prospects who do not take official visits in the fall would be able to sign in November. If you did, you would have to wait to Feb. to sign.

A kid that knows he wants to sign with Arkansas or any other place can't take an official visit to that place in the fall? Now that is impractical.

I don't know how it is going to end up, but it would be wise for coaches and media to realize one very important thing – it's not about us, it's about the kids.

After all, you coaches already insist on mandatory attendance at "voluntary workouts" in the summer – a misnomer if I have ever heard one.

Bret Bielama

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