SEC commissioner opposes recruiting reform package

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said Friday at the NCAA convention that he is not in support of the sweeping changes to the college football recruiting model proposed by the NCAA Division I Council and Football Oversight Committee.

Earlier this week, the oversight committee and Division I Council amended changes in NCAA Proposal 2016-16 that would have created early signing periods in late June and mid-December. The changes eliminated the June signing period and focused entirely on the mid-December date and allowed prospects to take visits paid for by the school starting on April 1 and continuing through the Sunday before the last Wednesday in June. Currently there is only one signing day in college football, occurring on the first Wednesday in February, and prospects are not allowed to take official visits until the start of their senior years in high school.

Two different bodies will actually vote on various sections of the proposal. The Collegiate Commissioners Association, a group made up of conference commissioners from the FBS and FCS, controls the national letter of intent and when recruits can officially sign with a school, and the NCAA Division I Council manages the recruiting calendar and official visit schedules.

Northwestern athletic director and Division I Council chairman Jim Phillips said he expects his group to rubber stamp the NCAA portion of proposal when they meet again on April 13-14 in Indianapolis. The CCA will meet again this summer, and Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said Wednesday that the 10 football-playing conferences were on board with the mid-December date.

However, that doesn’t appear to be the case.

“I'm of the view that significantly more work is needed on the proposed football recruiting package,” Sankey said. “I think there are healthy elements, but I do not view the entire package as the right direction for football recruiting reform.”

Sankey said his biggest concerns with the proposal revolve around the mid-December signing date and the impact it would have on high school football and colleges programs preparing for conference championships and mid-December bowl games.

“College football programs wouldn't want the NFL draft November 15,” Sankey said. “They just wouldn't. It would be a huge distraction. So now we're about to put a signing date in the middle of December when in some states high school football playoffs are taking place. That's not providing the right level of attention to high school football programs, which provide a basis for college football. We've talked about colleges' needs, but not about the impact on high school football, and I think that has to be a part of the early signing consideration.

“Also, if we sign the third Wednesday in November, there will be 20 FBS conference teams involved in conference championship games. They can't recruit in the first week of the contact period because of those games. So the 20 achieving programs are removed from really recruiting that week. In addition, we've got a set of bowl games that happen in early and mid-December. So now that we've placed a group of programs that have to decide 'Do I recruit,’ or ‘Do I prepare for bowl practices?' That doesn't seem wise.”

Sankey at this point is the lone commissioner that has gone on the record against the recruiting reform package. Other commissioners have said at the NCAA convention this week they are in favor of the changes the oversight committee and Division I Council have made. This could create an interesting dynamic when the CCA meets to vote on the mid-December signing day later in June. Commissioners from the FBS and FCS will vote on the proposal with one vote assigned to each league. Notre Dame, as a football independent with ties to the ACC, will be represented at the meetings by that league.

“It’s very good for student-athletes and their families,” Bowlsby said. “On balance, it’s an overall package that appropriately advances recruiting in the footprint of college football.”

The mid-December signing period was also unanimously supported by more than 100 FBS head coaches at the American Football Coaches Association convention last week.

“I will engage in more dialogue, and I already have,” Sankey said. “I respect the oversight committee’s work, but I'm one that actually thinks there are other elements that should be on the table for consideration to make football recruiting an even healthier experience for everyone involved. I will identify and communicate about those and then when it comes time to consider early signing, I'll be very clear in our conference's position.”