Wannstedt Supports Early Signing Date

The Pitt football team has seven verbal commitments as summer training camp is in full swing for the Panthers, but if head coach Dave Wannstedt had his way those players would be able to sign a letter-of-intent sometime late in the year.

For now, Pittsburgh must wait until February, 2009, to make it official with that year's recruiting class. Wannstedt basically supports a possible proposal by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) to create an early signing date for the third week in December, beginning in 2009. The actual signing date for that class would be February, 2010.

"I would be in favor of that, as long as we had an opportunity to have one or two recruiting weekends in December leading up to that where we had a chance to get some kids in (for visits),'' Wannstedt said. "Early (verbals) have a commitment from the school, and we have their word.

"But things can change the way it is now. ... So, the guys we have now, let's say, can come in for an official visit in December or sign and commit after that. After that, coaches would be able to focus the second half of recruiting on the other 10 guys that you're recruiting.

"But the earliest I would like it would be that third week in December,'' Wannstedt added. "That's the last week before the dead period. That's also the same time as the junior-college signing for kids who can come in for January. The tie-in would be there.''

Grant Teaff, the AFCA executive director, reportedly expects recommendations to be made to conference commissioners sometime in September if the proposal is completed this month. Teaff noted that that there will not be a recommendation to have an early signing date any time before December.

"We really haven't done much as a conference just yet,'' Wannstedt said. "The biggest discussion that we had as a conference, all the coaches in the Big East, is that we want an opportunity to have a recruiting weekend before that December date especially if we're playing a game up until then.

"To me, that's the discussion right now, having enough time to be able to get out on the road and get a couple weeks in December to recruit. I'd like to see it, but I think we need to talk a little bit more on times and dates.''

Verbal commitments in recruiting are coming earlier and earlier these days with schools like Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, West Virginia, Rutgers and Maryland, for example, nearly reaching their scholarship quotas now. An early signing period, in theory, would secure the majority of those.

Past surveys among scholastic athletes reveal that a large majority did not support an early signing period. However, Wannstedt and the AFCA believe that has changed in the past decade and in recent years in particular.

The NCAA would have to approve any proposal, obviously, but this time next year college football recruiting could be much different.

The AFCA contributed to this story.

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