During his Monday press conference, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer shared his thoughts on a potential early signing period.
Like seemingly all Big Ten coaches, Meyer is against an early signing period. The obvious reason is that it is financially and logistically tougher for players from the most talented regions (think Florida, Georgia, Texas, and California) of the country to visit Big Ten schools before official visits (paid for by the school) can be taken (typically during the latter portion of their senior seasons). Visits are extremely important and it’s rare for players to sign with schools they’ve not visited at least once.
Meyer is absolutely correct that recruits should be able to decommit as much as they want to, be able to change their minds as 17-year-olds are wont to do, and that some of the push for an early signing period is driven by lazy coaches.
But Meyer’s opposition struck me in a bit of a different way. The common refrain from Big Ten coaches is that if an early signing period is to happen, then the timetable that allows official visits must also be pushed up so that athletes can see the schools before deciding.
But Meyer actually seems personally opposed to this, too. That struck me as interesting. Meyer raised the point that some athletes would be taking their official visits when they are still 16, or well before they have put on the 20 pounds some do between the ages of 16 and 18. He also raised the issue of some kids taking official visits early before they have an ACT or SAT score, which is not allowed by some schools.
Why is Meyer opposed to the early signing period even if the official visit timetable concerns most Big Ten coaches have are assuaged?
A big part of it is likely because Ohio State dominates recruiting under the current system. Only Alabama has been better over the last four classes.
But the most obvious reason that Meyer doesn’t want the system to change is that it would deprive Ohio State of the ability to flip players after their senior seasons.
Let’s paint a picture. Johnny Kerr is a defensive end from Indiana. He is 6’4 and 205 pounds, and has a nice junior season. Minnesota and a few other mid-level Big Ten schools have offered him. Ohio State does not believe he is a Buckeye-level recruit and has not offered.
In an early signing period, Kerr might believe Minnesota is the best he can do and sign with the Gophers in July before his senior year. He gets his recruitment off his mind and knows that the school will honor his scholarship even if he gets hurt as a senior. At that point he’s gained five pounds and is now 210, decent progress.
But then Kerr blows up and come December, he’s had 20 sacks and put on 10 pounds and is now 6’4 and 220 pounds.
Now he’s definitely an Ohio State-level recruit. But there’s a problem: Ohio State cannot try to get in on his recruitment now because he has already signed with Minnesota. This is bad for Ohio State and potentially for the recruit.
“I want to watch them play their senior year,” Urban Meyer said. Under the early signing period system, he would not be able to if a player has already signed. Under the current rules, the Buckeyes can use their prestige and recruiting prowess to erase mistakes in evaluation or pounce on late bloomers.
An early signing period would help the second- and third-tier schools much more than it would the blue bloods of the sport. Meyer isn’t likely to be coaching anywhere but an elite program any time soon, so he should be against it. He’s clearly self-interested, but also raised some good points in favor of the recruit.
SB Nation’s Bill Connelly has an incredibly interesting breakdown of the Big Ten races. In the East, it is clearly Ohio State and Michigan, but in the lackluster Big Ten West, four teams have a strong shot to finish 7-2 or better. The one team that seems to have the huge benefit of schedule is Minnesota, who dodges both Ohio State and Michigan.
I spoke about LSU, USC, Oklahoma, and Tennessee on the SB Nation College Football Recruiting Podcast.
“It’s professionalism creeping into high school athletics, which I deplore,” Good Counsel Athletic Director Patrick Bates said earlier this month. “But it’s here, it’s not going to go anywhere, and it can strongly benefit some programs.”
And there’s a recruiting tie-in: rumors and fears throughout the football industry that prospects committed to a college will be encouraged to transfer to a high school that wears the same brand. I spoke to someone involved recently who believes that has already happened with a high profile member of the 2017 class.
The fear, they say, is that college football becomes like college basketball where certain recruits are believed to not even consider a certain school if it does not have the brand with whom he is unofficially associated, often through his AAU team.
SB Nation’s Steven Godfrey has a really interesting story on the Pac-12’s TV plan. The league could be better positioned than some if the cord-cutting movement picks up more steam. Emphasis on could.
“We wanted to be in the best position long-term for our consumers, to test different models. That intuition has shown to be somewhat prescient, although no one could anticipate how quickly we would be seeing models emerge, like over-the-top, or that some of the biggest players in tech would be getting into video.”
It’s all speculative at this point. That’s why words like “positioning” are so popular with Scott and like-minded Silicon Valley executives. But there’s some honesty in their approach; if network entities like Fox and ESPN, who most heavily impact the power balance of college conferences with TV contracts, continue to thin in a digital landscape, Scott’s modest present could be a lucrative future.