Roundtable - Early Signing Day

Here's a roundtable discussion of a potential early signing day with Scout.com national recruiting analysts - Brian Dohn, Greg Powers, Brandon Huffman, Scott Kennedy, Allen Trieu, Chad Simmons, Greg Biggins and Jamie Newberg.

There has been a lot of discussion in the media regarding an additional signing day. Currently, there is only one and that always falls on the first Wednesday in February each year.

The SEC and ACC both have publicly laid out plans for what they would like to do, if they were allowed to add an earlier signing day. The ACC would like it in August. The SEC suggests it should be the week after Thanksgiving. There has always been a lot of talk of an additional signing period being in mid-December, which is the time where junior college standouts sign.

Honestly, it's a mess. If it were to happen, things would have to change and the recruiting calendar would certainly need to be altered. Any way you slice it, it's coming and coming sooner rather than later.

At Scout.com, I posed three questions regarding an additional signing period to our experienced national recruiting team. Here are their answers.

1) What's your initial reaction to a potential early signing period?

Greg Biggins, West Region
I've always thought it made sense. You have two signing periods for basketball for a five man class. Why only have one period for football to sign 25? I think the pluses would be the players that are 'truly' committed to a school can get their decision out of the way early, sign and not be bothered with recruiting the rest of the year. For the colleges, it's less players to have to babysit and continue to recruit during the season.

The more I think about it however, I'm not sure it is a great thing. I think a lot of top players who commit early probably won't sign, just to protect themselves. The players that do sign likely will be the mid level kids who want to lock in their spots but this could have a negative impact on them down the road if bigger programs want to come after them after a big senior year.

Brian Dohn, East Region
I think it would be a very good thing because it would take a lot of pressure off the kids, who commit and in some instances are recruited even harder than if they remained opened. But in order for it to happen, I think changes would have to take place in regards to spring contact with coaches, such as allowing coaches to call prospects, and head coaches should be allowed out to evaluate and meet prospects in the spring.

Brandon Huffman, West Region
I have mixed feelings. On one hand, I think for those that want to sign early, I see the benefit. For others, there is so much movement the last two months leading to signing day, often brought on by coaches, but also brought on by recruits' own feelings, that you may end up dealing with more guys wanting out of their signed national letter of intent's from the early signing period.

Scott Kennedy, Director of Recruiting
In what has been called the most one sided contract in sports, I hate and have always hated the idea of an early signing period. The Letter of Intent (LOI) locks the player to the school but not the school to the player. The school does not have to offer a player a scholarship even after he's signed the LOI, but the player must attend the school he signed the LOI with or forfeit eligibility. It's the single worst contract in sports.

Transfer rules are one sided. The coach is free to take another job, but the player has to lose a year of eligibility if circumstances change and he wants the change his mind. Even worse, if a player is cut from scholarship, he still has to sit out a year before being eligible to play.

In what other industry can you be fired for no cause and not be allowed to get another job? Being cut from a team is part of competitive sports, but usually you're allowed to go play for another team. not in the NCAA. In a multi-billion dollar industry, the only party beholden to a contract is the amateur. Coaches change jobs faster than you and we change our shirts.

While the archaic, punitive transfer rules are in place for football players, I'll continue to encourage them to not sign an LOI at all, let alone sign one early. They need a set time to make a decision before committing themselves to a coach and school, because that commitment only goes one way.

Jamie Newberg,Southeast Region
I would like to see it but I also want to see how it affects the entire process. For an early signing period to work the recruiting calendar would have to change. The NCAA would have to allow for official visits to happen prior to the fall of the prospect's senior season. Not every recruit has the means to make visits or the visits they truly want to make because of financial constraints.

Honestly, the entire thing needs to be blown up and re-written from the ground up. The entire process is spiraling out of control. Randomly adding an additional signing period without major thought, insight and significant changes to the rules and recruiting calendar would make this chaotic and out of control process more chaotic and out of control.

Greg Powers, Midlands Region
This is something that has been discussed often each off-season and as much as it is brought up it is likely only a matter of time before it is instituted. I think that there are going to be pros and cons to any system that is implemented, but would be in favor of more rules to protect the student athletes best interests. However I do believe that the contact rules would need to change significantly as the college coaches would deserve the opportunity to get to know the players it may potentially sign.

Allen Trieu, Midwest Region
I think it is something that definitely has to be discussed. My concern is that an early signing period is just added without any other changes though. I think, if you do it, you have to amend other rules because the way you recruit and the way recruits handle being recruited changes as a result.

Chad Simmons,Southeast Region
I think it is something that definitely has to be discussed. I am a fan of an early signing period, but I do have some hesitation still. I think it would be great for the kids. They are the most important piece of the puzzle here. They have a lot on their plate as a student-athlete and recruiting can be a little overwhelming for some. Many commit and want to end the process, but schools do not let up because nothing is official until the papers are signed. It works both ways though. With more kids committing early these days but still visiting other schools, it puts college coaches in limbo as well not knowing exactly where they stand with a commitment. There are definitely more positives than negatives for me, so I am in favor for it.

2) What are your concerns regarding an additional signing period, whether it's in August, November or mid-December?

Greg Biggins
Concerns would be a mass of players signing early and then wanting to get out of their letters of intent following the season if their coach gets fired or team has a poor season. Also curious what happens to those players who sign with mid level schools, have big senior years and then is offered late by a top 25 program. Will they stick with the school they signed with or try and get out of the letter. If there's an early signing period, they also have to allow players to take official visits earlier, something I've been in favor of for some time. If you have a late summer signing period, allow players to start taking official visits in the spring of their junior year.

Brian Dohn, East Region
My concern is if it is implemented, how long before college coaches find a way to manipulate that system and render it useless, or less of a factor? Every time something appears to be changed to benefit a prospect, coaches come up with a way around it.

Brandon Huffman, West Region
No real concerns, other than those guys who made early decisions maybe regretting them, and then saying as much and causing all kinds of charges of tampering. But again, I think there are a solid number of guys who know where they want to go, want to sign and be done with it. I say do it in August though. The other side of it is that kids who sign with a school in August now have to weather a coach or coaches leaving the schools they signed with. You see it happen all the time in basketball, a guy signs in November, then the coach leaves, and come April, he wants out. This is the risk factor with signing early, with coaches getting let go in December and January, and then you still have until February.

Jamie Newberg,Southeast Region
My main concern is that for all parties involved it has to be a fair system. I don't see much of a benefit for a late November/early December signing period, as the late national signing day is just a few weeks away (the firs Wednesday in February). I see a benefit to having one in late July or the first week in August, right before fall camp starts for both the recruits and the college coaches. But to do that, you have to drastically change the calendar, to open up official visits for the recruits. Maybe it's the spring. Maybe there's a window in the summer. But to be fair, you have to alter the recruiting calendar.

The same can be said for the coaches. They can't be on the recruiting clock 365 days out of the year. There would have to be more dead periods to give these guys a break. To be honest, recruiting in general needs more breaks and more dead periods.

There would also have to be language written into the new rules regarding what happens when you sign early and then there's a [head] coaching change? It's a volatile business and if there's an additional/early signing period, kids will sign with schools that have coaching changes. This would have to be addressed.

Greg Powers, Midlands Region
If I were a recruit who inked early and then my coach started popping up on the hot seat or sanctions were discovered and announced I would want to be able to have some flexibility to reopen my recruitment without losing a year of my eligibility. If I were a college I would be worried about making sure that the coaches are making solid early evaluations on talent and character. I think there are also some concerns by high school head coaches who prefer their players at times to not deal with recruiting in-season. The early signing period could influence or affect the way high schools deal with the process.

Allen Trieu, Midwest Region
My concern is that kids will be forced into signing before they're ready, just like some feel pressure to commit before they're ready. There are a lot of de-commitments these days, and an early signing period protects the schools, but kids could be stuck in situations they don't want to be in if position coaches and others they've built relationships with leave. Mostly, it will fall on the athlete and the people around them to make sure they don't sign until they are absolutely certain.

Chad Simmons,Southeast Region
To me, one in late November or early December is not that big of a deal. Sure, it helps, but it only takes off a month, two at the most. I like August better, but at the end of the day, my biggest concern is still there regardless of whether it is in August, November, or December. There are coaching changes each year and that is my biggest concern with an early signing period. You have quarterbacks that sign to play in a spread system, you have running backs that sign to play in an I-formation system, and you have many other different scenarios where prospects sign with a school because they see it as the best fit for them to excel, and to reach their goal, the NFL. Yes, coaches change places all the time, and it is part of the business - kids should know this, but the system these days are part of the equation when prospects commit.

3) What would you propose for an early signing period?

Greg Biggins
I'm really on the fence if we need one or not, like I said above. I think it's a good concept but also feel it would bring about some negative issues as well. Right now, I think it's definitely a win for the colleges. They can lock in their guys and the players who commit but don't sign, they can see who is really committed to them or not. For the players, I don't see as much upside. You're never in danger of losing your spot if you're a top 100 player and with as much turnover as there is in the college game, you're potentially locking yourself in to a school and staff that might not be the same one you committed to by the end of the season.

Brian Dohn, East Region
I propose an October 15 for an early signing period. It will allow prospects to make official visits during the season, give them a time to look around, and then be able to concentrate on the remainder of their senior seasons rather than have to go through recruiting even if they are committed. Now, if the NCAA wants to allow official visits during the spring of a prospects junior year, I would push for an Aug. 1 signing day.

Brandon Huffman, West Region
I think a signing period in August, which would allow for official visits beginning in June, rather than September, would be good for early enrollees and those who know where they want to go. But also make it easy for players to get out of their LOI's ONLY if there is a HEAD COACHING change at the school they sign with. Then the normal February signing period.

Jamie Newberg, Southeast Region
I would propose an early signing period for the last Wednesday in July, if and only if, certain things were adjusted in the recruiting calendar. Namely, the official visit window would have to open in the spring or summer before a prospect's senior year. Not every recruit has the financial means to make an unofficial visit to schools, especially ones far away. This would also make things more fair for programs like Stanford or Notre Dame, that do recruit players on a national scale.

Secondly, if there was a head coaching change, recruits who sign early would have to have the ability to opt out of their LOI.

Having an early signing period would certainly expedite an already accelerated process for all parties involved. The NCAA would have to build in more dead times and dead periods.

Again, I am all for it, but it would have to make sense, the recruiting calendar would have to change so it's fair to all parties, and there would have to be a way these prospects could opt out of the LOI if there were a coaching change.

Greg Powers, Midlands Region
If it were too happen I would personally be more in favor of using the same timeline as junior colleges, although it seems like something that the colleges are not in favor of at all.

Allen Trieu, Midwest Region
My concern is that kids will be forced into signing before they're ready, just like some feel pressure to commit before they're ready. There are a lot of de-commitments these days, and an early signing period protects the schools, but kids could be stuck in situations they don't want to be in if position coaches and others they've built relationships with leave. Mostly, it will fall on the athlete and the people around them to make sure they don't sign until they are absolutely certain.

Chad Simmons,Southeast Region
I would propose the early signing period be in early to mid August before many of the student-athletes begin their senior year. With that, I would like to see the NCAA allow official visits in the spring and summer leading up to a prospect's senior year. This eliminates a lot to me. These kids get tired of the process, get tired of the phone calls, and they just want to be kids during their senior year. If they are ready to make a decision before their classes start as a senior, let them end it. It is time to break to tradition of official visits only allowed after September 1 and move that up, then add the early signing period before their first game as a senior kicks off.

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