We asked each member of the recruiting coverage staff whether there should be an early signing period for football. Here are the responses.
Jeremy Crabtree's answer: If the coaches believe there should be, then I'm all for one, too. The American Football Coaches Association says more than 70 percent of the Division I coaches support an early signing period, but conference commissioners voted it down in January. LSU assistant Larry Porter, Rivals.com's two-time national recruiter of the year, said it best: "I think [an early signing period] would cut down on the amount of early committing and then kids changing their minds at the last minute. And then it would allow the kids who do know what they want to do and are secure in it to move on and put it behind them and focus on finishing their high school career." Obviously, there would be debate as to when it would be, how much it would cost and about 100 other issues. But it would solve the biggest issue plaguing college football recruiting now: all the de-commitments.
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Mike Farrell's answer: I think an early signing period is a must at this point. There are more and more early commitments, which leads to more and more de-commitments without an early signing period. This year, we saw so many kids change their minds in the last couple of days before National Signing Day, which leaves a lot of schools stuck at certain positions. I've always thought an early signing period at the end of August would be good, with the condition that the letter is not binding if there is a coaching change between the time the player signs and NSD. An early signing period in December also would work, although I think August is better because it allows those who know they are done with their decision to focus and enjoy their senior season without coaches all over them.
Jamie Newberg's answer: I am a firm believer in adding an early signing period, especially given all the early commitments. An early signing period would lessen the strain of recruiting on all parties involved. The issue is when it would be. There is talk about doing in December, but I don't agree with that. I think it should be in late July/early August, before college and high school teams begin fall practice. To do this, there would need to be a drastic change in the recruiting calendar. You would have to allow a window in the summer where teams could host official visits. If there were a signing period in August, there would have to be something in place whereby a prospect could get out of his letter of intent if a coaching change is made.
Barton Simmons' answer: An early signing period would benefit a number of parties. The head coach anxious to sleep easier with his class in the books and the player eager to flee the pressures of recruitment are just two examples. Unfortunately, a prospect loses the upper hand when he signs early. He can see his recruiting coach leave; worse, the coordinator or head coach could leave. And what's to keep a coach from going after another, more highly touted player at the position just because he can? The student-athlete should always be the first obligation to the NCAA, and an early signing period leaves the student-athlete too vulnerable.