Jason Ivester

NCAA approves early signing period, 10th assistant coach

Several rules were approved by the NCAA DI Council on Friday, including two that Bret Bielema has vocally supported.

Two rules that Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema has vocally supported in recent months were approved by the NCAA Division I Council on Friday.

The NCAA changed its recruiting calendar to allow for an early signing period in mid-December and created a 10th assistant coaching position for FBS schools.

If approved by the Board of Governors on April 26, high school recruits will be able to sign with colleges this December, coinciding with the period during which previously only junior college players could sign.

The Collegiate Commissioners Association – which governs the National Letter of Intent – must approve the change, too. It will vote in June.

Bielema, who is on the AFCA’s board of trustees, said he thought the early signing period would be a “good thing for the student-athletes” when asked about the possibility of it on National Signing Day in February of this year.

“I was really trying to look at that December time frame, who would we have signed at that time, versus waiting until now,” Bielema said. “It probably would have been in the ballpark, I’m sure, of 12 to 15, maybe 17 guys at max, and then all those guys would have been put to bed and put to rest, and really just worked on the rest of the class.”

Arkansas wide receivers coach and ace recruiter Michael Smith was also in favor of the early signing period.

“I think it shows a lot of integrity through a kid, too,” Smith said in October. “It’ll stop kids from committing and de-committing and it’ll stop programs from dropping kids. I think it works on both sides.”

The addition of a 10th assistant coach is something Bielema has anticipated for a while. At one point, he even thought it would be approved in time to make a hire this offseason.

Instead, the rule won’t become effective until Jan. 9, 2018, the day after the College Football Playoff National Championship game.

Bielema has hinted that he already has his eye on a coach for the position and that he will serve as the special teams coordinator with a heavy recruiting role, as well.

Other rules approved Friday include the elimination of two-a-day practices, allowing high school recruits to take official visits between April and June of their junior year and preventing FBS schools from hiring people close to recruits for a two-year period before and after the recruit’s enrollment.

That last rule would have kept Arkansas from hiring Gus Malzahn as its offensive coordinator in 2006, when the Razorbacks also signed four players from Springdale High.

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