Three years ago Michigan head football coach Brady Hoke was against an early signing period. Now, after three decommitments in the 2015 class alone, Hoke has apparently changed his mind.
“I think it would be great for the kids and the coaches, the high school coaches, and their programs,” Hoke said. “The families are trying to give their sons the best opportunity out there, but they’re spending a lot of money (on unofficial visits). I think if we can have an early visitation period (earlier official visits), I think that would definitely be something that could help.”
Both the early signing period and early visitation period are currently being discussed. If the legislation is modeled after college basketball, players who have decided early could sign their national letter of intent during the summer. Then they could play their senior seasons without distractions from over-zealous coaches and the media.
Of course those who are undecided can wait until the first week in February to sign.
Players like George Campbell, Damien Harris and Shaun Crawford, who committed last summer but have since decommitted, might not have felt the pressure from over-zealous coaches who continue to recruit players after they make their original (non-binding) commitment.
While it’s been discussed for several years, approving an early signing period is now gaining strength.
Susan Peel, NCAA operations director, expects the issue to be discussed in June by the Conference Commissioners Association. (The CCA is the 32-member council of conference commissioners).
“I think everyone wants an early signing period,” Peal told espn. “It’s just trying to nail down what’s the appropriate date for that.”
Peal also pointed to the expanded use of financial aid agreements, which allow early enrollees to guarantee a scholarship on Aug. 1. Those early enrollees don’t sign letters of intent and are not bound to the school.
ACC commissioner John Swofford, who plans on attending the next CCA meeting in June, is a supporter of an August date.
“This is something we’ve supported in previous years,” Swofford said. “Our football coaches and [athletics directors] agreed to again pursue that again and support that going forward.”
“Our feeling is that it would be a healthy thing for the recruits … the student-athletes in a sense that it would give them an opportunity to make their decision and fully commit to it and sign and be able to play and study during their senior season without the distraction of the recruiting process, which can be very significant,” he added.
It could be about money
Many other major-college coaches have said they would prefer an early signing period so as to avoid having to commit resources until February on recruiting prospects who commit months ahead of the current signing date, espn reported.
In fact, an informal CBSSports.com poll of 25 coaches this week revealed 19 unequivocally want to shift from the current early February setup to August or December. Five are either indifferent or can learn to accept it. Kentucky’s Mark Stoops is against the notion because of how it could change the recruiting calendar.
Not all of the coaches support the change. Some have argued it would pressure recruits to decide earlier, and also allow them to coast athletically and academically during their high school’s senior season.
“I know the [Southeastern Conference] coaches are not in favor of changing the recruiting calendar,” Kentucky’s Mark Stoops said in January. “If things start moving up, it changes the way we’ve been doing things for a long time.”
(Of course, there are more than a few coaches who object to how the SEC does business. That discussion is for another day).
Another subject which has been discussed concerns what happens when the head coach leaves after a prospect signs. Presently, the recruit is still bound to the school, but many think he should be allowed to transfer without sitting out a year. ♦
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff – Joel Greer