During the ACC spring meetings last week, commissioner John Swofford announced that league coaches are in favor of an early signing period. The topic has long been debated and is up for discussion next month at a meeting of the College Commissioners Association, which governs the national letter of intent program.
So is it a good idea for the ACC to be in favor of an early signing period? Andrea Adelson and Matt Fortuna debate.
Adelson: An early signing period makes sense.
Coaches begin recruiting players earlier and earlier. Players begin making verbal commitments earlier and earlier. They begin enrolling in college earlier and earlier, too. So explain why an early signing period is not in place yet?
Early is the name of the game these days, therefore an early signing period makes sense. There is no reason to prolong an already arduous process unnecessarily. If a player has made up his mind on a school, let him sign early. Makes life much simpler not only for the player, but for the schools that are doing the recruiting, too.
Six of the 14 ACC schools already have seven or more commitments for the Class of 2015. Rather than having an early signing period, the powers-that-be believe it is best for these players to continue to be recruited for nine more months; and for schools to continue to spend money and resources “recruiting” these players. More like baby-sitting.
As NC State coach Dave Doeren told me last week: “There's a lot of young men that commit early that would like to get it over. This is where they’ve wanted to go, have no need to drag it out or have distractions in their life and for us, just a way to know who's coming for sure and where we could use our resources to go recruit other players.”
Yes, there are concerns, especially from schools with higher academic standards. There are concerns about allowing players to sign before their senior seasons. There are concerns about players signing early and then wholesale coaching changes wiping out the staff that did the recruiting. There are concerns that recruiting will turn into a year-round event. But these concerns should not deal breakers.
No school waits until a player's senior year to offer scholarships anymore. Hence all the early commits. Players should be fully aware that coaching staffs can change before they sign on the dotted line. If a player wants to go to a prestigious academic school, then they don’t have to sign early if there is uncertainty about admissions.
Basketball has two signing periods. But the argument is that football is “different.” There are differences, yes, but not enough to keep an outdated model as the norm. Recruiting has changed drastically in the last 10 years. The rules have to change, too. And there are models that could work, even if it means moving the second signing period later than February. Approving an early signing period does not mean every player must sign before they are ready.
But it does gives players and schools more options than they have now.
Fortuna: Keep signing period where it is
All of the points that Andrea makes about everything within the recruiting calendar seemingly being accelerated has plenty of merit. But, to borrow a phrase used oh-so-often last week from officials at ACC and Big Ten spring meetings, the devil is in the details.
Coaches recruit earlier, yes. Players verbally commit earlier, sure. But what would happen to the important opportunities that high school kids receive to actually evaluate their options up-close and in-person? This would require many changes to the recruiting calendar rules, perhaps none bigger than the official visit date, which currently prohibits anyone from making an official visit to a school until Sept. 1 of his senior year.
What's more, the date of this early signing period remains very much up in the air. Early summer? Late summer? Sometime in the fall? Good luck trying to gain a consensus on that, as a series by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution showed just how many different ideas are flowing through the minds of head coaches.
And while high school recruits should be more cognizant of who and where they are committing to -- as the possibility for a coach being fired or jumping to another job is always there -- let's not pretend that, as non-noble as it may sound, the fact of the matter is that the majority of recruiting is based on relationships between players, their families and their coaches. Though many schools have their own selling points and will march on regardless of who is in charge, most players are committing to their coaches, not to the logo on their future helmets.
The academic component is an impediment as well, as some schools with higher standards in the classroom don't admit their incoming football players into school until much later in the recruiting process, sometimes as late as right before national signing day. That could create more pressure on prospects from other schools, as those schools could guarantee them entry earlier than the kids' first choices could.
Recruiting has its flaws and is a machine that needs to be tamed in some capacity. But forcing already-confused teenagers to sign away their futures earlier than they currently are is not the answer.