College football isn’t adding an early Signing Day in June, but it might still add one in December, the NCAA announced after a Division I Council meeting on Wednesday.
DI Council alters football recruiting proposal, removing June signing period consideration. December signing period vote in April. #NCAAConv— Inside the NCAA (@InsidetheNCAA) January 18, 2017
The NCAA’s Football Oversight Committee — a subset of the DI Council — put forward a proposal last year to allow 72-hour signing periods in June and December of the year before a prospect is set to go to college. Only the December period is still on the table, with a vote set for the spring. The idea of a June period faced widespread backlash from coaches, who recently held a national convention in Nashville.
Currently, the football signing period starts on the first Wednesday in February and runs until early spring. (Signing Day this year is Feb. 1, and the signing period runs until April 1.) Commitments before February are merely verbal, unless a prospect enrolls at his college early or signs specific financial aid papers.
The addition of a signing period in June would’ve had significant consequences for college football recruiting. For one thing, it would’ve led schools to pressure players to make official, binding commitments during the summer before their senior seasons, thus guarding against potential decommitments later on.
That might help a player who, for instance, commits to a school and then suffers a debilitating injury that could lead to his scholarship offer being pulled under other circumstances. But it’s easy to see how it could limit players’ options, too.
As my colleague Bud Elliott explained a few months ago:
Johnny Prospect is a defensive end from Indiana. He is 6’4 and 205 pounds, and has a nice junior season. A few mid-level Big Ten schools have offered him. He is on Ohio State’s radar, but the Buckeyes are not willing to let him sign early because they first want to chase elite prospects.
In an early signing period, Prospect might believe a mid-level Big Ten team is the best he can do, and that school is saying that if he does not sign, it will give his spot away. So he signs.
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 he blows up and come December, he’s had 20 sacks and put on 10 pounds and is now 6’4 and 220 pounds.
Meanwhile, Ohio State has missed on two of its top three targets at the position, and is now absolutely willing to take Prospect. But there’s a problem: Ohio State cannot try to get in on his recruitment, because he has already signed with an inferior program. So now Johnny Prospect cannot sign with what turned out to be his best option
A summer signing period would’ve hurt big, dominant recruiting programs for a similar reason. Teams like Ohio State have thrived on flipping prospects who’d previously been committed to other schools. That’s easy enough when commitments are verbal, but it doesn’t work when they’re signed and sealed.
If Ohio State wanted to offer a scholarship to one of those late bloomers, a June signing period could’ve precluded the Buckeyes from doing so in a lot of cases. That would’ve hurt the Buckeyes, and it would’ve limited players’ choices, too. The NCAA would’ve had to resolve issues over players who wanted to back off pledges after signing, perhaps because of a coaching change or family circumstances.
On the other hand, a summer signing period would protect players from having their offers yanked out from under them after a coaching change, as one UConn recruit claims happened to him this month.
A December signing period, depending on its exact dates, might offer similar protections, though that depends on case-by-case timing. If players could sign before a new staff comes aboard, they’d have a chance to insulate themselves from being dropped from a signing class at the 11th hour. Even then, concerns from players who want to leave a school after a coach change would have to be resolved.
If prospects are allowed to sign in December, recruiting will change. The run-up to National Signing Day might be a bit less frantic, with fewer late decommitments and less drama all around. But the impact won’t be as far-reaching as if the NCAA had opted to let players sign before their high school senior seasons even began.