Signing period options on table

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- For the first time since the Conference Commissioners Association formed a committee in June to look into whether an early signing period for college football would be a good thing, we have an idea of when that period might be.

On Tuesday at the American Football Coaches Association convention in Louisville, Susan Peal, Director of National Letter of Intent, who serves as a liaison between the collegiate governing body and the commissioners, revealed that the committee is leaning toward recommending a mid-December signing period. Peal said that window would likely coincide with the midyear junior college transfer signing date that occurs in the third week of December.

"Based on all of the feedback -- and there are all kinds of dates out there of what people want -- the most favorable option the committee has seen seems to be for an early signing day in December, something that's in line with the midyear junior college transfer signing date," Peal said.

"I'm not saying that's the only option out there, but it is the most favorable. The reason I'm saying that period is the most favorable is that coaches like their recruiting calendar. They like all the work that has been done so far by every subcommittee to get the recruiting calendar to where it is today, and they don't want to mess with that. A December date would have the most minimal impact to that recruiting calendar, so that's why that has been the one date that has come out."

The NCAA doesn't oversee when prospects can officially sign with institutions, and the national letter of intent program is governed by the CCA, a 32-member panel of Division I conference commissioners. The committee examining the early signing period is chaired by Mid-American Conference commissioner Jon Steinbrecher and includes a mix of administrators such as Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt, Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity and Stanford athletic director Bernard Muir and former coaches Rich Brooks, Gene Chizik and Jim Grobe.

College coaches and administrators have debated for years the merits of introducing an early signing period for football, but momentum picked up considerably in 2014. The only hurdle seemed to be when it would fall on the calendar.

Last summer, the ACC announced that its schools supported an Aug. 1 date. The SEC offered a recommendation for the Monday after Thanksgiving. Big Ten coaches said they would want to align more closely with the ACC's proposal.

While there's not a consensus on what date is best, coaches at the AFCA convention were happy that some sort of resolution appears on the horizon.

"We're moving in the right direction, whatever direction that is," said former Akron coach Rob Ianello. "We'll have something that people can look at and examine the pluses and minuses and come up with some feedback on it. It's something a lot of coaches have wanted for six years. I like mid-December because it doesn't change the calendar and it allows kids some chances to take official visits in December before they would sign. If it was an earlier date, then kids that don't have the financial resources would have a hard time taking visits and would be left entirely out of this early date."

Peal said the next step in the process for an early signing period to become a reality is that the committee will formally make a recommendation to the conference commissioners. From there, they will solicit feedback one final time from coaches at annual spring meetings and a vote by the commissioners would take place in June. If the proposal passes, it could be in place for the 2016 recruiting class.

On Tuesday, the NCAA also introduced to coaches at AFCA four concepts the football recruiting subcommittee is studying that could alter recruiting rules moving forward. The biggest topics of discussion revolved around unlimited text messaging with potential student-athletes and allowing an in-person contact during the spring evaluation period.

A majority of coaches in attendance at Tuesday's NCAA recruiting seminar supported unlimited text messages with prospects but wanted to ensure it was allowed only during a contact period. However, the coaches were not in favor of allowing an in-person contact in the spring and thought it was best to redefine the bump rule that is in place and give them an opportunity to have a 60-second greeting with prospects when meeting them for the first time as juniors.

Other topics the football recruiting subcommittee is looking at include allowing schools to pay for parents to fly with prospects on their official visits and changing the weekend before the AFCA convention from a dead period to a quiet period and allowing official visits the first weekend in January.

The first idea was met with overwhelming support by the coaches in attendance, but they did not like the idea of reducing a school's allotted 56 official visits or reducing a player's allowed paid trips to help offset the costs of the parents' travel. The coaches also did not support the idea of allowing visits on the first weekend in January.

The football recruiting subcommittee will continue to examine these topics throughout the spring and determine whether they will become formal proposals for the NCAA institutions to vote on.