Do coaches want early signing?

When it comes to a the early signing period in college football recruiting, there is not a consensus on time period, visits or whether it should even happen.

We surveyed coaches across the country about a potential early signing period coming to college football. Here are some of the responses.

Gary Andersen, Oregon State head coach

"I'd just like to see them allow kids to sign on the national junior college signing day in December. Everybody who wants to sign on that date can, and then have another one in February. In my opinion, that would be easy to do. It wouldn't take three years to change the process and do a bunch of things. It can be done today and it can save money. It can save time. It can relieve stress on kids, high school coaches and parents, assistant coaches and head coaches at every level of college football. It's muddy water and gets a lot clearer if you do it in December."

Dave Clawson, Wake Forest head coach

"I'm not in favor of it. Keep the current calendar. I think you have a signing date. I think one of the problems now is the process starts too early, before we get to know these kids. My concern is if you look at an early signing date, it's just going to push the process earlier than it is now. It's not like we're going to have some guys sign early. They'll be told: 'Hey, if you don't sign now, we don't have room for you.' What happens if a head coach leaves? What happens when the coordinator leaves and they run a different offense? ... Say there's a senior starter and he thinks, I'm going in there and playing, and that kid gets hurt and there's a freshman All-American. I just think there's a lot of things to consider before you move the date up."

Sonny Dykes, California head coach

"I think it takes pressure off of the kids and can help save money, from a recruiting standpoint, and time. To me, the way they're talking about doing it is a short-term solution. I think they need to take a look at the entire recruiting calendar. The recruiting calendar is constructed based on how people recruited 15 years ago where you sign these guys up and go out in May and find who you're going to recruit. That's not how it works anymore. You know who you're recruiting. You've known for a year. In my estimation, what they need to do is just take a look at the recruiting calendar and just start over. Maybe we're going to allow, since you know who you're going to recruit now, maybe we'll allow you a time to -- maybe the signing day will be later and maybe you can visit juniors and sign them the first week of May. No coaches are on the road during the football season. No coaches are on the road because you need to be worried about your team. When the season is over, you go recruiting. You used to have to go watch the players, but now the video and everybody has tape and the tape is easy. The whole thing has been constructed on a model 30 years ago, 20 years ago, 15 years ago. Whatever it is, it's an old model."

Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern head coach

Fitzgerald has said previously that there should not be a signing day.
"Well if I'm going to offer you a scholarship then I've got to go on a website, I click the mouse saying I've offered you. That way you know, the high school coach knows, his parents know, everybody else knows. It's a 72-hour cooling off period. You can't sign with us. But after that if he wants to sign he can sign. He can be open till an end date, instead of making it this one day, this kid doesn't want to sign, he doesn't have to sign. But that way it puts credibility on both sides. It takes pressure off the kid. So he's done. But there's got to be an academic component put in. The acceleration in this recruiting now, the schools that are offering kids, with the new 10 -- you've gotta lock 10 core courses in -- [needs] some serious discussion. And I hope it happens, No. 1 for a prospective student-athlete, for his family, for the high school coaches and for the assistants."

Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss head coach

"I'm totally opposed to a December signing period. I'm a former high school coach. Let me tell you what's going to happen if we do that. We're all going to want to trip them during the season to get as many signed as we can in December, and now that kid that's really good is going to go here a weekend, there a weekend, here a weekend. He's going to get here on either Friday or Saturday. He's going to stay up all weekend, enjoy the official visit, get back to his high school and be absolutely worn out for his high school team. That is not a good thing for our relationship with high school coaches. There's enough stress on it right now with us offering freshmen and sophomores. I'm not for it. I think it's a bad deal, and us former high school coaches understand that.

"If there's going to be one, it should be in August in my opinion. That way, now the kid signs before his senior year and has nothing to lose. 'Let me go play for my team.' Do that and give them a free out if the staff changes. Let them go to the February period.

"If I really had my way, there'd be no early signing period. It would just be, 'Do you want to commit to me? I'll send you the papers tomorrow. Sign them.' Because right now commitment means nothing from either side. But you do that, you're going to find out what players are really committed to you and you'll find out what schools are really committed to the players. It's so driven by the hoopla we put on through TV and all this stuff that I don't know that would ever ... But to me, a kid calls me: 'Coach, I'm ready to come to Ole Miss, I'm going to commit to you.' I'll send you the papers tomorrow. I think that would calm a lot of things down."

Todd Graham, Arizona State head coach

Graham has supported the Pac-12's stance for an early signing period but not in August.
"I'm against August too because that would be before they've even had an official visit. It's not even legal to take an official visit. If we want to move it to August, then let's let them take official visits in May and June after their school years are out.

"This is the most important decision of these kids' lives and they need the time to be able to do that right. I wouldn't be opposed to December, but I'm fine with where it's at. I'd rather see them do more things to give kids an advantage ... allow kids to take visits earlier. Some kids would like to visit these schools earlier, but just don't have the money. And some still commit before their senior season so it would be nice to be able to take an official visit before committing."

Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State head coach

"I would have a early signing day on July 1. Now they're talking about doing it at the same time as junior college [signing day in mid-December to mid-January]. I still think that's beneficial. Administrators, presidents, athletic directors, people who have to be fiscally sound with budgets, they'd have early signing days. It saves money. People say 'Why July 1?' Starting in July, we usually take three weeks off. I'm not fired up about recruiting in July. If you're going to take a break, you're going to take a break, otherwise why not just go year round? I would sign them up then. You take those players, those coaches, rental cars, and take it off the board. Most of your big programs are looking to save money now with cost of living and such. Also if you're committed you might as well get them signed up. I'd have one July 1 and middle of December, if it was me."

Mark Helfrich, Oregon head coach

Helfrich has supported the Pac-12's stance for an early signing period but not in August.
"I'm in line with that, especially because of where we're at geographically.

"The one other thing we've knocked around is allowing official visits in June. Have a true camp experience, a true visit experience, let us pay for it. Then you could manipulate the signing day, but without doing that I wouldn't be in favor of [a signing day before the season]."

Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech head coach

"I don't really see any cons. I think that it has pros, not just for Tech but for everybody. I think that it helps clean it up. Anything we can do to help get the runners out of the deal and all of the hangers-on and the agents. Like I said, my preference would be that you have 85 scholarships, you can sign 25 a year and those that finish class their junior year ... if they're under 18 they've got to have their parents' signature anyway. So it's like we'd stop all this foolishness about 'I'm a soft commit.'

"I think the only thing you'd have to put in there is if the head coach changed, then that would free them, they would null-and-void their letter and they could sign again in February. I wouldn't change the date. The February date would be the end date. But there wouldn't be any set period, so when kids came to your school, they visited and [say], 'Coach, I want to commit.' You'd hand them the papers. And it would also stop the schools from throwing out a million offers. Because where we sit here in Georgia, we have everybody coming here to Atlanta, and they offer a lot of 200 offers, and it's easy for them because if the kid says, 'I'm committed,' they either take it and recruit on top of them, or, well, it's not a committable offer. And then it puts the onus on us and Georgia. If we don't offer early, we catch all the flack for, 'Well, they can't make up their mind.' But if we offered and the kid tried to commit and we told him it wasn't committable, it wouldn't go over well in our own state. So, I think it'll clear it up for the kids. It doesn't mean that everybody has to sign in August. If you're not sure what you want to do, and you want to wait and take five visits after the season -- it's just like basketball. Basketball has the early signing period. And what, 90 percent of the guys sign early? There's probably 10 percent of the top players that can sign whenever they want. If they want to wait. And it would be the same in football, and I think it would clean it up for the other schools, because now it's a food chain. If Alabama goes and takes Wake Forest's guy and Wake Forest goes and takes Memphis' guy, then Memphis goes and takes Arkansas State's [guy], and so there's no way to balance the numbers."

Brian Kelly, Notre Dame head coach

"I would like to see a signing day sometime in December, where we could really, have those kids have enough time where if they're not sure that that's what they want, they can get out of that commitment. I don't want an August or a September signing day, I want something in December where they're in their year, if they're ascending, right, in their senior year? And they made an early commitment to a school that maybe allows them to look higher, that they can do that, that's why I think December's the right time, for those reasons. So I think it helps in so many fashions for us to recruit in June, get kids that are committed and want that place to be their home, and you get them off the books. And then focus on the guys that are not sure."

Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech head coach

"Being a head coach, I see pros. If you can knock a third of your class out prior, it wouldn't be such a crazy run at trying to get every household in January. You could actually take your time, maybe go narrow your scope, maybe go see some other high schools and high school coaches in the area instead of just trying to hit these households every single night.

"You could already start focusing on the next class. As it is now, each coach every day is trying to get in two households a night and trying to fit in 25 home visits into 30 or 40 days. If you could knock out seven or eight [signees] in your class, I think it would be a huge help to the head coaches.

"The geography of it out here not being as easily accessible as some other schools in the state, it would definitely help us."

Mike MacIntyre, Colorado head coach

"If you just look at kids who commit early, if they want to sign early and get it over with, you should let them. If you look at all the stuff at the end ... kids getting coerced at the end. I like the early signing day. My personal thing is it should be kind of like basketball is -- before their senior season starts. The problem is you would have to change the [recruiting] calendar a lot. To me, that's the best way to do it. December is good, but I think it should be earlier.

"Problem for me [with December signing day] is you have to bring kids in for official visits during the season and that's hard because a lot of times they're playing on Friday night and when they come in, you don't get to spend a lot of time with them, they don't get to know you.

"You have to really talk about changing the calendar. May and June maybe they can come visit. May would be like contact period off-campus and they would come and you could have a signing date, for me, like a Fourth of July dead period and sign after the Fourth of July."

Jim McElwain, Florida head coach

"As long as everybody is on the same playing field, it's fine. I'm for it but I'm not sure any of us, when and if it does occur, what some of the snakes lying in the grass are. I think even in particular us last year taking over the program when we did. I don't know. It's interesting. I think we are headed that way because a lot of these kids are making early decisions -- if they are sure that's the school they want to go to then I think it's a good thing. Takes a lot of that last four weeks of recruiting, when guys start flipping and flopping and all that stuff, it takes that out of it. Where the visit rules go and the mechanics of how it works will be interesting to me."

Les Miles, LSU head coach

"Here's what you want to have happen. You don't want to change the calendar. The calendar has worked. The calendar where we have visitation schedules, evaluation schedules; the NCAA has it planned well and you don't want it changed. If you do, then everybody starts talking about 'We're going to now insist on spring contacts' or 'We're going to have summer visitations.' Then there is no offseason. It's 24-7 recruiting.

"Several years ago, back when I was in the Big 12 Conference, there was a study done where 35 percent of the guys who signed in February said if there was an early signing date, they would sign. Thirty-five percent. That is a pretty strong piece of the population. That being said, if you look at every school, every school has early commitments. We have 12, 16 in some years. We should be probably be about 18 by the time we kickoff. On the best years, we're really looking for 21, 22 and looking for three guys in the back end of recruiting.

"If that is in fact the case, then let's play the season and give them an opportunity to sign at the school that they've been committed to the entire time. What happens, a great prospect says, 'I've always wanted to go to this school. My mom went there. My dad went there. I live close. I've been there many times. I know the coach, etc., etc. I want to come there.' He commits. He makes it public. Well, what we've said and one of the models as far back as my time in the Big 12 and what is within our conversations here in the SEC, would be, 'Let's not feel like we now have to go back and recruit that guy.' This guy is committed, let's let him go ahead and sign. That's where we come up with the Wednesday before Dec. 1, or the last Wednesday in November."

Dan Mullen, Mississippi State head coach

"I have a different view on it probably than some. I want to have an early signing day for signing kids who know where they want to go to school. I don't want to change signing day. My proposal was the Monday after Thanksgiving, one because if you're playing an extra game, you can't go recruit. A lot of people finish Thanksgiving Day, which is why this whole thing made sense to me. Monday after Thanksgiving, as coaches we play Saturday. It gives you Sunday to get organized, Monday to get organized where you can't go out and recruit. It's not just a mad scramble. It gives you a chance to actually breathe and maybe have Sunday night dinner at home with your family for one day before you head back out after not seeing them the whole season.

"If you're playing a championship game that next week, it's two less days -- because when we play Saturday night we're out on the road that next morning -- that you miss as a disadvantage. The kids, it allows them to see what happens during their senior season. If I want to go to Mississippi State and we go 2-10, I might not want to sign there. I might want to see what happens. [The coach] might get fired. I want to take my time and go through the rest of the process. The kids that are being recruited, they don't have the mad rush and everybody trying to jam into their house before signing day. So it's not changing signing day or rushing it to get everybody signed early. It's for kids who know where they want to go to school.

"Also, adding a stipulation to that: kids can take official visits but cannot sign with the school they took an official visit to. So I have a kid from Starkville High School who's committed to Mississippi State. Been to 25 practices, been to nine games, been on campus, been coached at the camps, knows the coaches. My dream is to go to Mississippi State. I'm committed to Mississippi State. So I'm going to take my official visits after I sign just to make sure. I go take official visits to a couple other schools, and if I'm not sure, then I don't sign. I sign on the regular date.

"The other way I'd be for is before their senior season starts. I don't want to change the calendar. By having a signing date the day they're proposing means everyone's going to try and jam official visits at the beginning of December. Let's get them all signed. I have to rush into every home at the beginning of December because maybe the kid will sign early. And all of a sudden he doesn't sign early. Oh, boy, I can't even see the kid again because I've been in the home, and the kid is like, 'I'm going to wait until signing day.' What we're proposing is not an early signing date. What we're proposing is moving the signing date forward.

"I would love to use this model as an early signing date. Why does a kid that's committed to Mississippi State, knows that's where he wants to go to school, have to be taken out of class every day for the first two and a half, three weeks of December. Now we're hurting the academic aspect. If you have a kid on the academic edge, and he's committed to a rival school, and the coach visits this kid every day and causes him to do poorly in school, which hurts his chances of going to this other school. I'm definitely for early signing. It just needs to make sense. It's not, let's have an early signing date because everybody wants it. Why is there an early signing day? Who is the early signing day for? If I've already committed before making an official visit, why do I need it?

"The whole thing made perfect sense to me, the model we proposed in the SEC as a league. There's a lot of discussion among our coaches that it makes sense. But whatever they'll go for, I guess I'll be for it."

Pat Narduzzi, Pittsburgh head coach

"I think it's great for Pitt, as long as the time table's what it needs to be, but I'm all for an early signing day, as long as it doesn't take away from coaches and their families. Early signing day, I don't want early signing day to be sometime in July, or August, before camp starts. Because that means you're officially visiting during the summer. And it's about the only time that a coach and his family get to go to Italy, get to go back to your old country and see it, and I just think, there's so much time for football, that there's got to be time for family, too. And if they go to that it's a bad deal for every coach in the country."

Mark Richt, Georgia head coach

"There's always an unintended consequence every time you change a rule. I think myself and a lot of other SEC coaches, at least in some of our meetings, are concerned with how the calendar would get pushed up. That signing day would probably cause a lot more official visits in-season as we are trying to prepare for games and prepare our current team to do battle on a Saturday and even the day after as we are preparing for the next game we are still trying to entertain. We just want to do right by our current players and we want to be as well prepared as we possibly can. So we are a little bit concerned that that recruiting calendar would move up. Before you know it they'll be trying to legislate official visits in the summer and we're not sure that's in the best interest."

Scott Shafer, Syracuse head coach

"I think an early signing date, first and foremost, and my goal in wanting to see that, would be to save yourself some time and money. The way I look at it is it's the kids that know where want to go early, are going to go there, and why not give them the opportunity go ahead and sign up, and then we can focus on the rest of the crop of athletes that we need to recruit? Because what happens is you end up having to kind of baby-sit the kids, and you spend a lot of time and money, and a lot of those kids: 'Coach, we really don't have to come back, you know I'm coming.' And I say: 'I got to, because you never know who else is going to try to walk in the door and change his mind.' An early signing date will alleviate some of those things, where you get the kids that were ready to commit back in the summer. And I think there's some good studies done on kids that were early verbal commitments, something crazy like 80-something percent of them stuck with their school that they committed to months ahead of the signing date.

"I was in favor of doing it in the summer. And my whole goal wasn't to say, 'Hey, let's get our 25 kids committed.' It would be: 'Hey, let's get those six, seven, eight that were ready to jump in, let them jump in, let them go enjoy, from their side of the fence, the kids, go enjoy their senior season in high school. I feel bad for the high school coaches when these kids are continuing to get recruited, and I'm guilty of being one of those guys that continues to recruit them, and now they're not focused in on their season they could've or would've been if they committed before the season started in high school. So that's just my opinion on those things when I look at it from here. And probably the final thought on that would be in the state of New York, we're not like a Texas or Florida, even an Ohio, where we're going to have a ton of Division I recruitable players, and what happened here my first few years was we'd be all over kids when they were sophomores and juniors and then they'd fall in love with Syracuse, they were ready to go. And then the longer the process went on, the more they continued to get hit and exposed, the kids that we found, in the middle of the Bronx, that maybe nobody knew about, they got exposed, and when some of these other schools said: 'Hey, we better look for some other guys to put on the list,' they came up North. We lost kids late to Notre Dame, Clemson, Florida State, kids that if there was an early signing date would've committed to us. And so for me protecting Syracuse's mindset, an early signing date just makes all the sense in the world."

David Shaw, Stanford head coach

"I understand if it moves forward a little bit. I think if it goes too far forward -- a lot of people were talking about August -- you lose your argument that you're recruiting student-ahtletes because you have no senior year progress as far as academics are concerned. Once again, we're unique and just about everybody that we have an opportunity to recruit before we can send them an application we need to see some measure of senior grades. We need to see a fall test score and those aren't going to be in in time for a summer or August signing day. If these things ever get to governing bodies as far as how student-athletes are viewed, it's hard to say this was an academic decision. This was a coaching decision. This is what's best for coaches and you can't make a viable argument that this is what's best for student-athletes."

Mark Stoops, Kentucky head coach

"The pros are it clears things up for both the players and for the universities. It would save an awful lot of money and an awful lot of time. If you know you're going to sign somebody, it just makes sense to get it done.

"The reason I say it protects the players is because I think some people get very offended because people just throw out offers all over the place, and maybe they're not committable offers. Put your money where your mouth is. If you're going to offer somebody a scholarship and they want to take it, then sign the papers.

"I think Bo [Pelini] has said that. Bo went on record a year ago saying that, and really the more I thought about it, it's a great point. If you're going to offer somebody and they say yes, say 'OK, here's the scholarship.' Immediately, there's going to be people who say that's not right and we have to do this. Well then why are we offering them? I think it's only fair for both sides that way.

"What's happening more and more is that players are just going to protect themselves and take something, and then maybe continue to just shop around. Well then how is that really a commitment? And vice versa. Some players are getting dumped by universities as well, and that's really not right. All of us are put in a bad situation.

"I really don't see any negatives to having an early signing period. Now exactly when that is, that's where we need some discussion."

Mike Stoops, Oklahoma defensive coordinator

"There has to be some type of accountability. If you don't want to commit, don't commit and don't sign. Then your commitment means something. We have to hold some cards don't we? They just raid people's recruiting classes who have recruited for a year. We talk ethics but let's be real, do you think that is ethical? You're recruiting a guy for two months then [someone] has a scholarship open up in the last week and a guy has been recruiting him and spending all that money then suddenly he [the other coach] can go in and get him. There's a trickle down effect.

"We've made out on that deal too, but someone lost out too. We'll win a lot more of those battles than we'll lose them."

Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M head coach

"A big reason [to have an early signing day] is convenience for the prospects and the families that know what they want to do. The bigger picture is cost savings. I think a number of programs will have really, by the start of football season, 80 percent of their class committed. Most people will have at least 50 percent. You then spend May through December and January flying around all over the place, driving around and kids already know what they want to do. There's a cost-cutting factor that comes into play, which is significant when you're a national recruiting team like we are. I also think it clears the picture up for everybody. If a young man doesn't want to sign early, then you know he still wants to be recruited. If he does sign, then that clears the pool up of who else is out there that is available. To me, there's way too many positives for it not to happen."