Joe Paterno has to be loving this. According to a story published last week by Pantherlair.com, the Rivals Pitt site, the NCAA has passed a new rule that will push back the date that schools can issue written scholarship offers.
According to a new regulation that was passed by the NCAA in April, the first date that colleges can send out written scholarship offers - for any Division I sport - is Aug. 1 of the prospective student-athlete's senior year. Which means that, for thousands of high school juniors-to-be, the next 14 months will be full of verbal offers and nothing more.
Currently, colleges can hand out written scholarship offers on September 1 of a high school student's junior year. Now they have to wait until August 1 of their senior year. This is a huge difference.
I can see why the NCAA is doing this. They are concerned about kids committing to schools earlier and earlier in their junior years, and the number of kids committing and decommitting is increasing every year. The NCAA is trying to slow the process down, but they are going about it entirely wrong.
I'm sure that schools and college coaches are all in favor of this. I would be too if I were them. Here's what's going to happen. Now schools are going to send out a flood of verbal offers early. And they will get a flood of verbal commitments based on those offers just like they always do. But the problem is that verbal offers mean nothing, and whereas schools in the past were at least bound to honor a written offer, now they are off the hook with verbal offers. And in the end, the students are going to get screwed.
Think of it this way. If a school has room for two linebackers, they will go out and give verbal offers to ten linebackers. Let's say four of them call the head coach and commit. Then, on August 1 the coach will decide which two of his four verbals he wants and send out his written offers accordingly.
The other two guys, well, they're out of luck. Oh, you gave your verbal back in February and broke off all contact with the other schools that were recruiting you? And now their rosters are all filled up with no room for you? Sorry to hear that. Them's the brakes, kid. It's just business. I'm sure some MAC school will be thrilled to have you.
If the NCAA thinks this is going to cut down on the number of early verbals and decommitments, they are dumber than I thought they were. All they have done is take the only actual written part of the equation out of the picture. Now the schools can cleverly choose their words and carefully craft their letters so when August 1 comes along and a kid complains that he didn't get his offer they can say, "Well, we never really 'technically' offered you." There used to be no accountability on one side. Now there is no accoutability on either side.
If the NCAA really wanted to clean up the system there are a few easy things they could do. First, they should embrace the fact that colleges recruit juniors. So let's have an early signing date and let kids sign in August of their senior year. That way coaches don't have to worry about defending their turf from teams trying to steal their recruits during the season.
Next, how about letting kids take official visits in the spring of their junior year. Currently, kids can't take official visits until September of their senior year. But college coaches are busy with their season, and the high school kids have their own football games so they really don't have time to make official visits until December and January. Let the kids take official visits in the spring semester when they have time available and the colleges aren't so busy. These kids make unofficial visits anyway and more and more of them want to make up their mind before August so it's out of the way before their senior year starts. They take these unofficial visits on their own dime, which gives a huge advantage to schools in Texas, California, and Florida where the recruiting hotbeds are. It's a lot cheaper to drive down the road to see the Longhorns than it is to fly to Michigan, Ohio, or Pennsylvania.
The argument against this is that if they move up the signing day, then colleges will start recruiting sophomores. I don't really agree with this. You can go younger and younger, but you quickly get to the point where you're not sure how a kid is going to grow and develop. Anyway, this could be easily be corrected by mandating no written or verbal contact with kids before their junior year. If I'm not mistaken this might already be a rule.
There are some simple things the NCAA can do in order to clean up the process and keep people from being double crossed, but pushing back the day to issue written offers isn't one of them. All this does is give colleges an excuse to make promises they are not obligated to keep. In the end, it's the kids who are going to get screwed.