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CCA to vote on early signing period

ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- A decade's worth of debate about whether an early signing period for college football is a good idea is expected to culminate in a vote this week at the Collegiate Commissioners Association's annual meetings.

The CCA, which administers the national letter of intent that recruits sign to make their verbal commitments to a school binding, is meeting at the Biltmore Estate and will vote on a proposal to create a three-day signing period in December. The vote is expected to take place Tuesday or Wednesday.

If put into place for 2015, the early signing period would open Dec. 16 and be available for only high school seniors. The early signing period would operate on a two-year trial basis, after which the commissioners would evaluate the effectiveness of the change.

Commissioners from the 10 FBS conferences and the FCS will consider 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.

According to Susan Peal, director of the national letter of intent, the FBS and FCS could choose to adopt an early signing period collectively. A simple majority is required to pass the proposal.

"I anticipate it to pass, but I also anticipate a robust and spirited debate," said Mid-American Conference commissioner Jon Steinbrecher, who led the committee tasked with preparing the proposal. "With the two-year look-in that's part of the proposal, I think many of us are ready to say, 'Let's move forward or not move forward. Let's get away from being in limbo.'"

The SEC is the only FBS league that has spoken out against the proposal, and officials from the American Athletic Conference have not commented. Administrators from the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, MAC, Mountain West, Pac-12 and Sun Belt have spoken in favor of the proposal. Conference USA officials, while somewhat indecisive, appear more in favor than against.

Steinbrecher said the other possible outcome would be tabling the issue to allow the NCAA's new football oversight committee to weigh in on other aspects of recruiting.

Currently college football, men's and women's soccer, and men's water polo are the only NCAA sports without an early signing period. Basketball has long used a system that allows recruits to sign in the fall and spring, easing the pressure on prospects who wish to end the recruiting process early in their senior years of high school. Football recruits can sign only in February of their senior year.