National Signing Day has almost become a holiday for those of us here in Alabama. We love to see the next chapter for the Tide, Tigers, Blazers and other schools across the southeast as players sign their letter of intent. We also love to boast about why our high school had more Division 1 recruits than our rival. No matter how long a recruit has been committed, they are still fair game until they actually sign on the dotted line in February.
Now, thanks to the NCAA approving the new early signing day, December 20 may be our first taste of what players will actually end up where.
Before we go too much further, it should be known that the proposal still has to be approved by the Collegiate Commissioners Association, which oversees the National Letter of Intent program.
With the approval, the new early date will coincide with the junior college signing date. This past year, that would have been December 14, but it will be December 20 this year and the window will last for three days.
The NCAA has given their reasoning for this rule as being that by mid-December, many student-athletes have already made up their mind about which college to choose and the crazy amount of texts, calls, visits and more start affecting their ability to enjoy their final days in high school.
There are many pros and cons to this situation and depending on how you look at it, some may outweigh the other.
Many people are going to be happy with going ahead and being done with the process. Schools will send out letters to players they know are hard commits and they will sign and go ahead and count toward the number for that signing class. The recruits will be done with the process and can focus on enjoying their final chapter in high school and their next chapter in college.
It could also lead to players like Jarez Parks perhaps understanding where he stands a little earlier than on actual signing day. A team wouldn’t want to get ahead of itself in December if they still had the chance to flip some other recruits to their side, so they might not send out letters of intent to all of the players who could end up there.
On the other hand, if a school sends a letter of intent and the prospect doesn’t sign it, then it shows how he views the school.
Teams can also benefit from the new rule because it helps them understand where their signing class may be before the normal signing day. For instance, if you didn’t get any defensive line recruits in the early signing day, but you did get plenty of wide receivers and those are the two biggest needs for you, then you can shift your focus between the two signing periods.
Many think northern schools will benefit from this because another part of this new signing date is a rule from the NCAA that allows prospects to take official visits in April. This would allow schools in cooler climates to show off their school when it’s not snowing and freezing. Many recruits visit unofficially anyway in March and April around spring break, but an official visit would be paid for by the school.
One big negative has been academic progress for players. Some may not be able to qualify by December and their spot my be signed away to another player who did qualify early. Stanford head coach David Shaw has called the idea of an early signing period “catastrophic” because of Stanford’s high academic requirements that many times they have to wait until the last minute to accept a recruit. Ryan Johnson found out he had been accepted in January this year before committing and eventually signing with Stanford. However, he could have easily signed with Auburn early on if he had the choice.
Another negative will be the lack of showing off skills in All-Star or All-American games. After the season ends, we typically have the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star game the week after the Super 7, and that would typically fall before the signing period. However, the Under Armour All-American Game, the Army All-American Bowl, the Blue-Grey All-American Game and others all take place well after that signing period, typically around New Years, or even after the start of the new year.
Many players are re-evaluated after playing against national competition and it ended up earning LaBryan Ray another star to make him a consensus 5-star recruit. It also benefited Tadarian Moultry and Henry Ruggs III among others. Many players aren’t even noticed until after the season and this signing period would essentially have people signing the minute the season ended in most states.
Players could potentially earn new offers by playing in these postseason games, and if they were able to sign early, they would lose out on those offers.
Coaching changes typically start happening the first week of December, but some don’t happen until as late as January, or even after the current signing day. Now, a few different issues could arise.
Schools could wait to pull the trigger on firing a coach to first get them to recruit players. It happens now with coaches getting fired after signing day, but it could potentially happen with more than just position coaches. Many times, recruits sign with a certain school because of the coach or coaching staff that recruited them. This early signing period would allow for a full staff to stay on, perhaps through a bowl game and tease the recruit into signing.
Also, recruits could commit to signing on the early signing date, and a coach leaves for another job. While many of the firings happen the week right after the season, which would be before the signing period, many times a new coach isn’t hired right away. There are interviews and a long process before a coach is typically hired, and it is very possible that a coach could leave after the signing period for a new job unexpectedly.
That brings the debate about whether or not a player should have some kind of clause that he can leave if the coach leaves after the signing period. The NCAA has never mentioned an exceptions in the past, so this could be a major issue.
If this does indeed go into effect, then we will be celebrating signing day late in December, and many schools will get a nice Christmas present. You can probably expect most of the top recruits in the nation to continue to stay unsigned, even if they are committed before that date, just to test the waters and see what else they might can get.
There are many positives and negatives to this, but we’ll have to see for sure how it plays out. Signing day is always full of drama, and this could extend the drama out for a couple of months instead of one day. Until we go through it, we won’t know for sure how it will work.
The CCA will still have to give us the final approval on this in a couple of months, but regardless, coaches and players alike will have to start thinking of how to approach this new early signing period.