At the recent Southeastern Conference Spring Meetings in Destin, the subject of an early signing period for football came up once again and once again the SEC coaches rejected the idea. At a meeting of the Collegiate Commissioners Association in Asheville, North Carolina this week, SEC commish Greg Sankey will probably will probably say no when a proposal for an early signing period comes to a vote but he will likely be outnumbered. Like it or not, the CCA, which controls letters of intent, will most likely approve a two-year trial for a three-day early signing period that coincides with the junior college signing date on December 16.
A December early signing period could have a dramatic effect on the recruiting calendar by putting more of a premium on official visits during the season rather than waiting until January. Coaches will want the players to come in the fall and sign in December rather than wait to take official visits in January. By getting the name on the LOI, coaches won’t have to worry about a kid they’ve had committed for months getting flipped. Florida fans should relate to that. Will Muschamp salvaged recruiting classes for four years by flipping committed players such as Dante Fowler Jr. at the last moment.
On the surface, this sounds like a no-brainer, but there are problems with the December model. Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze is opposed because he thinks high school kids should spend the fall months concentrating on having a great senior season rather than worrying about taking official visits and then perhaps signing while the state playoffs are still going on. Additionally, so many kids transfer these days after the season so priorities might change for the incoming recruiting class.
Another problem for a December signing period has to do with coaches being able to see a kid live. Unlike basketball where there is an AAU circuit in which coaches have multiple opportunities to see kids develop against live competition during the spring and summer. It’s not uncommon for kids to play 5-6 games during a three-day weekend during an evaluation period so basketball coaches have ample opportunity to see kids in person. There is no spring and summer circuit for football, so coaches only have the fall where games are played once a week. That same kid who was a gangly 6-3, 175 pounds last year might have grown an inch, put on 50 pounds and changed positions.
One solution for the commissioners might be to consider how well the November signing period works for all their other sports and implement something similar. November would be out of the question, but perhaps a July 1 early signing date would work well. This would open the door for kids who have made an impression at camps on campus to go ahead and get recruiting behind them so they could focus on their senior seasons.
Dennis Dodd, the national football columnist for CBSSports.com, has rated every Division I coach on a 0-5 scale with 0 being a coach who is untouchable and 5 a coach who should not be making long term real estate investments in his city unless he plans on scoring a few wins that please the alumni and boosters. In the SEC, Dodd rates four coaches untouchable – Nick Saban (Alabama), Dan Mullen (Mississippi State), Hugh Freeze (Ole Miss) and Gary Pinkel (Missouri).
It’s interesting that Dodd has South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier as a 1, which equates to very safe. You can understand the other three who rate a 1 – Mark Richt (Georgia), Butch Jones (Tennessee) and Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M). Georgia fans are never satisfied with Richt; Jones might not be so safe if Tennessee takes a step backward; and Aggie fans might not be so happy with Sumlin if John Chavis can’t turn the defense around.
But Spurrier? In his 10 years on the job at South Carolina, he’s become the winningest coach in school history and has turned the program from one of doom and gloom to one of optimism and high expectations. Other than Saban, Spurrier is probably the most untouchable coach in the SEC because he has changed the entire football culture in Columbia. When Spurrier took over South Carolina had below average facilities and a good year was one in which the Gamecocks qualified for something like the Weedwacker Bowl. Now the Gamecocks have facilities that rate in the top half of the SEC and they play their bowl games on New Year’s Day.
As for the rest of the SEC, Dodd considers Bret Bielema (Arkansas), Gus Malzahn (Auburn), Jim McElwain (Florida), Mark Stoops (Kentucky) and Les Miles (LSU) in the 2 category which he says means they are safe … but you never know. It’s hard to imagine Malzahn and Miles in that category and if Bielema gets Arkansas to the 9-win plateau, he’ll leap to untouchable.
Dodd also rated the nine most likely coaches to lose their jobs unless they win big this season:
1. Tim Beckman, Illinois
2. Mike London, Virginia
3. Mike MacIntyre, Colorado
4. Paul Rhoads, Iowa State
5. Ron Turner, Florida International
6. Trent Miles, Georgia State
7. Norm Chow, Hawaii
8. Paul Petrino, Idaho
9. Paul Haynes, Kent State
The golfer formerly known as Tiger Woods is listed as a 50-1 shot to win the US Open, which begins Thursday at Chambers Bay in Washington. If you saw his finish at The Memorial and have followed him on those rare occasions when he actually played this year, then you have to think 50-1 is truly generous. This is a course that plays 7,600 yards which means everybody is going to be hitting the driver. A driver in the hands of Eldrick Woods has been a real adventure this year. Perhaps 50-1 would be better odds for making the cut.
The favorites are Rory McIlroy (7-1) and Masters champ Jordan Speith (8-1). If Sunday was any indication of things to come, then consider Phil Mickelson (18-1) a real possibility. Phil shot a 65 at the St. Jude Classic in Memphis on Sunday and looked as sharp as he’s looked all year.
Baseball purists think the designated hitter should be a thing of the past, that both the National and American leagues should play by the same rules, which means pitchers have to hit for themselves. First year commissioner Rob Manfred says the DH isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. He likes the diversity of the two leagues.
Against the DH is Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who spent his entire managing career before 2015 in the American League. Speaking of when he was a coach with the Anaheim Angels, which had an abundance of talented outfielders who could hit, Maddon says the players were dead set against it.
“They hated it,” Maddon says. “Nobody wanted to DH.”
But do fans prefer to watch someone step to the plate who actually has a clue what to do with the bat or do they prefer to give up an out at the bottom of the lineup? One thing for certain, the DH has kept a lot of players in the game who can still strike the ball long after their ability to play effectively in the field has passed.
Are you in favor of the DH or would you prefer to see pitchers hit?
I got to see Jimi Hendrix live on two occasions. The first time he played what seemed like an eternity and was unbelievable. The second time was a complete bummer. It was Fayetteville, North Carolina in 1970. Hendrix came on the stage played four or five songs and then walked off. That was it. Today’s music is a live performance of Hendrix in Stockholm from 1969. He played for nearly an hour.