An early signing period for football? No

It's no secret that recruiting is a year round business. It's also no mystery that this year, more kids than ever are committing early. So, let's have an early signing period, so that some schools can focus their efforts in finalizing the class or actually coaching their season. That only makes sense, right?

Right about now the coaches at Nebraska are getting off of what little vacation they got, readying themselves to move into their new digs in North Stadium. That's pretty cool, and I personally can't wait to see what everything is going to look like when it's done.

For the coaches, though, if they got any time off, reality is settling in that it's back to 15 to 18 hour days as they prepare for another season of football.

And that's not even including recruiting.

With recruiting, there literally are no days off. While one or two coaches can take some time off, you can bet that whatever coaches remain aren't just doing what they were supposed to be doing, but what other coaches aren't doing as well. Otherwise in certain areas of the country, if even a couple of weeks of stagnation go by, that's two weeks you just fell behind.

I was talking to a friend of mine, who has been in the media for close to 20 years and he said the magical word when trying to describe what recruiting was: "Fluid," he said.

That means basically, you don't need to worry about the face of recruiting, because in a single day, its expression could dramatically change. Heck, in some cases, it changes so completely from day-to-day, you'd have to wonder if all of these kids are truly just teenagers, having a bout with doubt or if they haven't all gone "Cybil".

"I commit."

"No, wait."

"I changed my mind and I commit someplace else."

"No, wait."

"Uhhh, I am taking recruiting one day at a time and I just want to make the best decision for me."

"No, wait."

Sound familiar? Unfortunately, you don't have to reach back into the deep recesses of your mind to remember something like this happening. It seems like it happens every week. More kids are committing earlier than they ever have, which basically means that you are going to see more de-commits than you have ever seen as well.

So, why are kids committing this soon if more than a few only end up changing their mind?

If you look at the sport of Volleyball, you have young girls who commit to schools sometimes as early as their freshman year. The thing about it is, those commits more often than not, stick. Almost always where that young female committed, no matter how long ago, that's exactly where she'll be.


Do young teen women just have more integrity than young teen men?

While I am sure more than a few young girls might agree, I think we can look at a simpler and even more obvious reason:

Volleyball isn't football

As much as the folks around the state of Nebraska might find Volleyball to be a truly interesting and even compelling sport, most of the rest of the country wouldn't agree. It's not what is termed as a "major" sport, because there's just not enough interest.

And when you have more interest, you have more fans. When you have more fans, you need more seats in the venues in which they play. And that ends up being more potential earnings for a school, based obviously on the success of that particular team.

You start involving the magic word "money", that will literally change the face of any sport and how everything to do with it is done.

Which brings us back to recruiting

While in Volleyball, there is no doubt a lot of effort spent on recruiting, there seems to be this unspoken sort of honor-system, which says to some coaches; once a kid is committed, it's time for you to move on.

And they actually do.

Isn't that an interesting concept? When a young girl commits to a school, almost all of the other schools acknowledge it, even respect it and they actually do move on.

You know what would happen if coaches did that in Division 1-A football? Yeah, that's right – they'd be Baylor or something equivalent.

It's actually gotten to the point where there are more than a few kids who don't REALLY get recruited until they have actually committed to a school and the bigger the name of the school they committed to, the more attention they get.

That means college recruiters aren't just going after kids they don't have, but they also working just as hard to keep the ones they do.

The simple an obvious solution to all of this would be to have what basketball already has and that's an early signing period.

It makes all the sense in the world, doesn't it? If a kid has done his homework over the off-season and knows where he wants to go, why shouldn't he be given the choice of committing and not having anyone else bother him after he does? Why should these kids be forced to take their official visits either during or after their own season, when school is actually taking place?

An early signing period makes even more sense when you think about having it perhaps a week or so before the college teams get into training camp. With an early singing period, that means you will invariably have official visits allowed over the summer, which then means they will have gone through the evaluation period, been to plenty of camps and both the player and coaches will know if a kid or school is right for them.

So, what's the problem?

There's a few, but one of the biggest problems, which my friend was insightful enough to point out, is that it's bad enough when people assume a coach works every single day of their life. But with an early singing period, that would almost become mandatory.

Think about recruiting as it stands, there literally could be no day off if that's what you chose to do. Even if you have scouted every senior-to-be out there (which is probably impossible), there are still those juniors, sophomores and even freshman. It's like soccer, kids getting scouted younger and younger every year.

The whole issue with this, though, is contact.

With the calendar constructed the way it currently is, there are certain periods, where contact is either limited or not allowed. Those days are when they are, because of how it relates to the overall recruiting process. One of the biggest concerns the NCAA has is that recruiting doesn't become a 24 hour a day deal, thereby making these kids 24 hour a day targets.

Ideally, they want them to have the time to be kids.

Because of that you have "dead" periods, which are those times when a coach may not have any in-person contact with a recruit. They can call, write and oh yes, do all of that text-messaging they want, but they can't have contact with that young person face-to-face. A "quiet" period is similar to a dead period, except you can have face-to-face contact at the institution where that coach is employed, i.e., the official or unofficial visit.

Add to that the no phone call rule during most of the summer, there are all kinds of measures taking place, which are supposed to keep as much pressure off of these recruits as possible.

Of course, that's an illusion.

More and more, kids are taking unofficial visits during the summer, which basically means more and more kids find themselves committing even before their season begins. They want to if only to avoid the recruiting attention, which has by this day and age, become almost notorious in its reputation.

The kid commits and the attention he thinks he will have stifled to a degree from that commitment actually increases. The pressure is on now for coaches to show this kid that he made a mistake. For whatever reason, they want him to see that their school should have been his choice all along. That takes time, but because of the rules of contact, there's still only so much time it can take.

If you throw in an early signing period, you have just officially opened the floodgates and coaches, who might have had some sort of breather at some point of the year, will now officially see no relief to recruiting.

If you throw in an early signing period, you have to throw in earlier opportunities for kids to take official visits. If you throw that in, you have to throw in an adjusted calendar when it comes to contact and recruiting periods. An early singing day would essentially rid college coaches of an actual "dead" period, but that only means whatever attention these kids got, it will grow almost proportionately.

What you have thought might ideally be best for recruiting has in fact only justified everything you feared recruiting would become.

The attention these kids get would truly never stop.

I know you are saying that once the kid signs his L.O.I. during this proposed early singing period, that's it, he's done, time to move on to someone else. But what about the kid that doesn't decide early? Maybe he wants to see how teams do, how a new coach runs an offense or defense or see for himself just what the fan atmosphere is like?

An early signing period has essentially doomed this one recruit to an actual and even official year-long torture-session of phone calls, visits and yes, calls from the media, ever-growing in its interest of this one-time obscure topic of interest.

There would be no end, but not like today. Today we can at least know that within the boundaries of the rules, while recruiting never ends, there's at least some ebb and flow to its intensity. While coaches around the country are text-messaging kids out of their minds, there's still at least some reprieve.

Not with an early signing period, though. If you have that, all bets are off, because the NCAA will have officially sanctioned it being a 365-day-a-year deal. Kid could essentially know that they could get called by a team once a week for almost every single week of the year.

I feel for the kids. You'd have to, but think about if you were a coach. Some might not think they take a day off, but let's not make it so they can't. Even they need a break now and then.

It would seem that in the end, idealism has become its own worst enemy. Who would have thought that when it comes to football recruiting in Division 1-A, the NCAA might actually have this one right?

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