Collegiate Commissioners Deliver A Message

My first inclination Wednesday morning when I saw that the Collegiate Commissioners had tabled until next year the vote on an early signing period for football athletes was disappointment. In the words of Chris Carter, "C'mon Man." The majority of college football coaches have spoken clearly since 2009 that they prefer an early signing period.

The athletic directors and compliance administrators have indicated that it would be a good idea to them. About the only special interest group involved that has been against the proposal is the Southeastern Conference. Now, imagine that, the SEC holding up progress.

Those schools, especially the big boys of Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Georgia and, if they ever right their football ship again, Tennessee, always want it their way. They know that at the end of the recruiting calendar, right before signing day in February that if they are short a running back, an offensive tackle or maybe a cornerback, then they can check over other schools commitment lists and go take one at the last minute.

That is one of my big reasons for supporting the early signing period. As someone that has covered the recruiting process for over 30 years I have seen plenty of those last-minute pressure plays to make the steal. I'll be honest here, there is nothing wrong with it. It's not against the rules, but it still gives you a bad taste in your mouth.

Now before someone in the name of Nick Saban or Les Miles accuses me of being a "homer" and only supporting the early signing date because OSU head coach Mike Gundy supports it, and over the years Oklahoma State has lost a few recruits on late power plays, let's remember that the last couple of years the Cowboys have benefitted from some power plays and late switches of their own.

For instance, it cut both ways last season as USC picked off running back Ronald Jones after the 5-star running back had been committed for almost seven months. Oklahoma State turned around and plucked junior college standout Chris Carson from Georgia's commitment list.

People forget that it is the Collegiate Commissioner's Association that governs National Signing Day and the Letter of Intent process. They have tabled the early singing period, proposed for the middle of December, and the same time that the junior college signing period opens.

The CCA is giving a directive to the NCAA and the football oversight committee, ironically chaired by Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, to look at all aspects of the football recruiting process and potential reform. Those issues they cite include satellite camps (the hot button issue in the SEC), over signing, gray-shirts, blue-shirts, and the recruiting calendar as a whole.

I'm game and I plan on giving Commissioner Bowlsby my opinion as a recruiting reporter and someone that would like to see the NCAA live up to its claim that they are all for student-athletes and what is best for them. I'll hit each one of the topics that the CCA apparently cited.

Satellite Camps: I know Nick Saban doesn't want anybody down in his recruiting area in the SEC but here's the rub, Alabama recruits from a position of strength and they will get more than their share of good recruits. With satellite camps being legal then schools can go and give their staff and others they work with such as smaller division football schools and even junior colleges plenty of chances to see more kids.

These camps help the schools but more than that they help the kids and they create opportunities. A young football player may not go to a camp hosted by Mary Hardin-Baylor, Butler County Community College or Bethune Cookman but when they know an Oklahoma State, Iowa or Michigan is going to be there then they will go.

Most kids dream and think they will play Division I but most won't. Now if they get seen by these smaller school staffs then that dream of playing football and getting a college education doesn't die, but instead might just take a step toward a smaller destination. Camps equal more opportunities for kids. I see it that way, so leave the camps alone.

Over signing: I support this but only under one circumstance. Over signing to just take more players and then sort it out later doesn't cut it. I'm okay with over signing to give a kid that hasn't qualified yet academically his day in the sun in front of his classmates and family, if the over sign becomes a double sign with a junior college. Then a plan has been established. That is my only acceptable over sign scenario.

Gray-shirting or Blue-shirting: I'm okay with it. They can't sign, so in essence this is just like a verbal commitment from both sides. The process does create opportunities, but I don't think it is right to use the Letter of Intent to back it up.

Recruiting Calendar: I had Oklahoma State offensive line coach Greg Adkins on my radio show Wednesday and asked him about the CCA and their tabling of the early signing day issue. He was okay with it because his concern is the potential that the recruiting calendar will be rushed even more than it is.

He made the great point that it wasn't that long ago coaches went out in the May evaluation period and evaluated that year's recruits to decide who they would recruit. Now that May period is about getting commitments for that year and if there is any evaluating it on the athletes for the next year. I agree with Adkins in that I don't want to speed up the recruiting calendar any more. As for where it is now, that's like Pandora and it isn't going to get shoved back.

I would like to see some strict dates with the following being an example that fits where recruiting is now.

Recruiting Calendar Starting with Juniors-to-be
June 1 - The first date that a junior-to-be can receive a written scholarship offer from a school.
Sept. 1 - The first date that a current high school junior can receive a phone call from a college coach.
Dec. 1 - The first date that a current high school junior can be visited at school or at home.
March 1 or the first day of spring football practice - The first time that current juniors/seniors to be can make an official visit. Yes, this speeds up the calendar but only in moving up official visits to a situation similar to what exists with basketball and their early signing period. The recruiting period remains open through the first two weeks of June.
Middle of June until the third Wednesday of July - Quiet Period, no visits, no face to face, only phone calls.
The third Wednesday in July - Early signing period for football seniors-to-be.

Early Signing Period: I'm all for it and, again, it allows a prospect that knows what he wants to do and what school he wants to attend to sign, lock in, and end the recruiting process so he can focus on his final high school season and having fun without thinking about the recruiting process.

Adkins made another good point on the cost saving and how that gets used as a reason for an early singing period. "Coaches are still going to be doing something," he said. "Just because they have recruits signed up that they don't have to visit and check on they will still have up out on the road and we will be evaluating the next class of recruits."

He's right. An early signing period won't save a ton of money. It might save some sweat and prevent some high blood pressure, but it will allow seniors that so desire to have recruiting done with the same option that college prospects in other sports enjoy with the early signing period for those sports in November.

Do it for the athletes is what I say.


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