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Policy could start for Class of 2016

The committee tasked to study an early signing period for football has recommended a 72-hour December window in which prospects could make official their commitments to colleges seven weeks before the traditional date, starting this year for the recruiting class of 2016.

Big Ten associate commissioner Chad Hawley confirmed the news, first reported Monday by CBS Sports, to ESPN.com. Hawley is a member of the committee assigned by the Conference Commissioners Association -- which administers the national letter of intent -- to study the program.

ESPN.com reported last week at the AFCA convention that the committee was leaning toward the December recommendation.

The early signing period, if approved by the conference commissioners this spring, would be installed on a two-year trial basis, Hawley said. It would open in conjunction with the mid-year, junior-college date, set in 2015 for Dec. 16.

The February signing period would remain, and the early period would not otherwise impact the current recruiting calendar.

The conference commissioners have considered an early signing period for years as the recruiting process accelerated, with major programs commonly offering scholarships to prospects in their freshman and sophomore years of high school.

A 2013 interpretation that allowed early graduating seniors to sign financial-aid paperwork on Aug. 1, binding colleges to the prospects, further provided momentum for an early period.

A signing date in December stands to save many hours and thousands of dollars for programs that won't have to invest resources in continuing to recruit long-committed prospects in January.