There are arguments for and against an early signing period in football, there will always be people on both sides. But this last LOI Day demonstrated in stunning fashion it's needed now more than ever.
The newest trend this year was the assistant coach moves. Before, you'd see a small window in mid-December in which moves were made -- and then that was it until after Signing Day. This year, the moves were plentiful and went right on into late January, and recruiting upheaval right along with it.
It left some schools scrambling in the final days, like Cal, who went from a top ten class to something in the 40s, while others landed prized recruits who went with the assistant coach to his new digs. An early signing period would limit the damage and chaos here.
BUT THE MOST important thing an early signing period would accomplish would be to further level the playing field. Every year, School A spends an enormous amount of time and energy recruiting and securing a verbal commitment. School B misses out on their top guys late, and so they move to their Plan Bs and Cs, who are committed elsewhere, like at School A.
The recruits often jump at the School B's late offer, despite not being recruited much by them over the past year. What the recruits often don't take into account is they were the second, third or fourth choice and they have an uphill battle ahead to see the field. Some are offered purely as depth, to in effect be high talent scout team players, guys the stars can sharpen their skills against, although they're never told that of course.
MANY CALL FOR an early signing period on the third week of December. That's a terrible idea. College coach firings and attrition mainly happen in the first two weeks of December and some schools will get absolutely hammered each and every year. There's just not enough time.
Others think August is the way to go. It's not a bad idea but it seems a bit early. And you'd need to build in some provision to protect the student-athlete who signed in August -- for example, if the head coach leaves between the time you sign in August and the late signing period in February, you can sign with someone else in February. It's fair to the recruit, but it will also lead to more program chaos and again, some schools getting absolutely hammered.
Which is all why a unique approach is called for, an outside the box idea. And here it is.
THE FIRST SATURDAY IN OCTOBER. Every school has a mandatory bye that week. No games are played on Saturday. No exceptions. Instead, you have the biggest Saturday of the year with the early signing day. And the week off gives coaching staffs enough time to give recruiting the focus it requires.
Think of the possibilities. You think the first Wednesday in February is big now? This would be bigger -- a lot bigger -- in no small part because the TV networks would be all over it, because they have no games to broadcast that week.
And you'd still have Part II to come in February.
For the shrinking number of coaches who oppose an early signing day because they don't have enough time to build a relationship with a player, open up more weeks in the summer and early fall for contact.
There will be less bombardment of signees in the final days. A verbal commitment will mean more than it does now, which more than ever this last signing day, was little to nothing.
Enact early signing period in October
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