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SEC Coaches Push For Early Signing Period

The world of college football recruiting has changed a lot over the years. Back in the 50's you recruited kids, but typically you had no idea what your team roster was going to look like until the kids enrolled in the fall. Then they instituted the signing day in February which forced kids into making their decision and sticking to it. As a result, coaches had to adapt. The trend of locking juniors into verbal commitments actually started with Joe Paterno back in the early 90's. Since then everyone has adopted the practice and if you don't have at least four or five verbal commitments by the end of May you're considered behind the game.

But the downside is now that kids are giving verbal commitments almost a year away from signing day the number of decommitments have dramatically increased. Last year over 200 kids decommitted from a school to play for someone else. It creates havoc for coaches as they end up spending all fall and winter babysitting their recruits until they sign on the dotted line in February. The effects of losing a recruit in January can be devastating since all the recruits you broke off contact with months ago are committed elsewhere. To combat this, the SEC coaches are proposing an early signing period like the one instituted in college basketball.

If the majority of SEC head football coaches have their way, the recruiting period will be split into two different signing days.


The coaches voted by a 9-3 count Wednesday at the SEC spring meetings to add an early signing day in late November. This 24-hour period for prospects to sign early would fall on the Monday before the contact period begins, which during a normal year would come during the week of Thanksgiving.


The next step is for the SEC's athletic directors and presidents to sign off on the proposal and then sponsor it on a national level. Most of the coaches agree that it would probably be at least a year before an early signing day would go into effect, and that's assuming the proposal passes.

As you can imagine, there are people in favor of this and others opposed. Count Florida coach Urban Meyer, who was one of the opposing votes, in the latter.

"I think recruiting should be done in December, January and February," Meyer said. "I think it speeds up 17- and 18-year-olds to make a decision that affects the rest of their lives. To squeeze them, to press them, to say you've got to get it done now and I just don't believe in that."

Meyer is notorious for coming on strong in the later months. Remember two years ago after winning the national championship he was plucking kids away from his rivals left and right in the final month leading up to signing day. But I think he has a point and I tend to fall on his side. These are just 17 and 18 year old kids. They make uninformed decisions and change their minds all the time. This new rule seems to be geared toward protecting the coaches rather than looking out for the best interest of the recruit as Phil Fulmer inadvertently points out.

Tennessee's Phillip Fulmer at one time opposed an early signing period because he felt it would be a disadvantage for the Vols in that they do so much national recruiting.


"But as recruiting has continued to move up, there's really no reason you can't get some of the guys off the board and not have to spend that time and money babysitting kids the entire month of January," Fulmer said.

Exactly. Make my job easier. Let me throw the fish in the barrell so I can focus on catching more fish. Well, what if that fish was pressured into making a rash decision and now something happens and he wants to change his mind? What if he signs with a school in November and then in December his position coach takes a job at another school? Or what if the head coach is fired and the new guy brings in a different system? Or what if he decides he wants to just change majors and the School X has a better program in that field than the school he committed to? These letters of intent and contracts, and as such they should be two way streets.

I hadn't really thought about this before today, but if you put me on the spot right now I would say I'm opposed to this. You can see the trend in basketball is getting out of hand. All the early signing period has done is move up the entire recruiting process. Now you have Kentucky offering scholarships to high school freshmen. Very few 14 year olds are mature enough to make decisions like that. But many would jump at the chance to play basketball for Kentucky on the spot putting the coach in a position where he has to babysit this kid for three years. When he decommits I guess we'll just have to move up the signing period again.