Signing without visiting?

Roughly 50 percent of all American marriages end in divorce. No doubt, the number would be even higher if the SEC football coaches concocted the marriage laws.

As you've probably heard, the 12 league coaches recently voted 9-3 in support of a proposal to institute an early signing period in late November. The kicker is that the signing opportunity is only available to prospects who have NOT made an official visit to the school's campus.

Isn't that kind of like agreeing to marry a woman only if she has NOT met you in person?

You'd think the coaches would insist that a prospect take his official visit before making the biggest decision of his young life. You'd think they'd insist he spend quality time with the athletics director, the coaching staff, the trainer, a bunch of players and maybe an academic counselor or two. You'd think they'd insist he check out the facilities at length and tour the library.

The more information a man gathers regarding his future mate before saying "I do," the less likely he is to experience regret down the road. Likewise, the more information a prospect gathers regarding his future program before signing the scholarship papers, the less likely he is to experience regret down the road.

That's why SEC athletics directors and presidents overwhelmingly vetoed the early signing period proposal. They want to ensure that the Jimmys and Joes get the grand tour of their campuses. Too many prospects make poor college choices even after making official visits. Still more would make uninformed decisions if they signed without first getting an in-depth look at their new digs.

Some coaches counter that a prospect can glean just as much information on an unofficial visit (which he pays for out of his own pocket) as he can on an official visit (paid for by the school). If the visits are the same, then why specify that ONLY students who have not made an official visit can sign early?

I think I know the answer to that question:

The coaches have to be much more involved with official visits, and they don't want recruiting to disrupt their regular season to an even greater extent than it already does.

Guess what? That argument makes sense. Under the current system most official visits take place in December and January, leading up to National Signing Day in February. Holding another signing day in late November would cause more prospects to visit in October and November. This would disrupt their high school seasons, as well as the season of the college team that is hosting them. That's a lose/lose proposition.

Moreover, what if Jimmy Prospect makes an unofficial visit in October, signs with State U in November, then sees the head coach bolt for another school in December (as Arkansas's Houston Nutt did just a few months back)? Now Jimmy is stuck with a program he is only vaguely familiar with and a coach he has never met.

That's a recipe for disaster.

I empathize with the SEC coaches' reluctance to let recruiting encroach even more so on college football's regular season than it already does. Still, I believe their proposal for an early signing period for only prospects who have NOT made an official visit was one of the silliest ideas I've ever heard.

And – trust me – I've heard some dandies.


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