May 17, 2007

Early signing day gains traction

An Atlantic Coast Conference proposal for an early signing date in football was endorsed by several coaches, but some said they want an earlier date than the ACC suggested.

The Charlotte Observer on Thursday reported the ACC is recommending the Wednesday before the third week of December as the early signing day for football. The proposal, which must be adopted by the Collegiate Commissioners Association, would also maintain the current national signing date of the first Wednesday in February.

Basketball and several other men's sports have regular and early signing periods.

Football coaches say an early signing period is necessary because programs are recruiting prospects earlier and many programs have been stung by recruits who backed off verbal commitments just days before signing day.

For example, Miami was left without a quarterback in its 2005 class when Derek Shaw de-committed and opted to go to Arizona State.

A year later, Pat Devlin de-committed to the Hurricanes and went to Penn State.

"That (an early signing period) would make kids stop and think that maybe they're not so ready to commit so early," Baylor coach Guy Morriss said. "We try to do the right thing by the kids, so when, say, a quarterback commits we call other (quarterbacks) we're recruiting and tell them we're full, so they have the chance to look elsewhere.

"But then if a guy jumps ship you have to get back in on the other kids. They don't want to hear from you because you dumped them a few months earlier."

If a prospect was committed but declined to sign a national letter-of-intent during the early signing period, that would alert programs to continue recruiting players at the prospect's position.

But a December signing day would only allow a few weeks to continue recruiting, and that's why Morriss feels an early signing period should be established in August.

"What do you do if a kid is committed and switches on you? How do you get in on another one with everything shutting down around Christmas?" Morriss said. "You may have a month to turn a kid who has vigorously been recruited by someone else for 12 months. You're not going to get in on that kid unless you're one of the big schools. If you're an average school like us, how do you get in on them?"

HISTORY OF NATIONAL LETTER OF INTENT
1964: William Davis, a government professor and faculty athletics representative at Texas Tech, founds the National Letter of Intent program. The program is formed by the Collegiate Commissioners Association. Potential student-athletes now can end the recruiting process by signing a letter of intent that binds them to whatever school they select. The lack of letters of intent before this date allowed schools to recruit players up until the moment they enrolled.
1964-73: Through the first 10 years of the National Letter of Intent program, there is only one signing date (May 20) for all sports. By contrast, the most recent recruiting season included one signing period (beginning Feb. 7) for football plus an early signing period (beginning Nov. 8) and regular signing period (beginning April 11) for most other sports.
1991: Former Pac-10 associate commissioner David Price helps revise and expand the National Letter of Intent to its current four-page format. The original letter of intent consisted of only one page.
2007: The Atlantic Coast Conference recommends lobbying the Collegiate Commissioners Association to adopt an early signing period for football. The early signing period would occur in December under the ACC's plan.
(Source: www.national-letter.org)
Nebraska coach Bill Callahan is at one of those big schools, and he also advocates an early signing period.

"I'm hopeful that the NCAA looks at an early signing date," Callahan said earlier this year. "Especially for us at Nebraska, that would be a great advantage. A lot of our (prospect) visits occur during the season. As we all know, it is tough and is getting tougher to hold a commitment from Day One all the way to February."

Oregon coach Mike Bellotti said the Pac-10 had voted 9-1 against recommending an early signing date during its conference meetings two weeks ago.

Bellotti said he believed an early signing date would hurt schools such as Oregon and West Virginia, which aren't in close geographic proximity to a high volume of top prospects and thus need more time to develop relationships with those players.

"Recruiting's a function of population," Bellotti said. "More people means more players. Those schools in high-population areas have those players right in hand, so you can create relationships and can recruit more easily than when you have to travel farther or when the players have to travel farther.

"There are a lot of kids who if they come to see Oregon, they'll sign with Oregon. But if they never get the chance to see it, we're at a disadvantage."

ACC Commissioner John Swofford said the early date would also benefit recruits.

"If a young man knows and has made a decision and wants to commit, you could end the recruiting process, so you don't have schools continuing to recruit the kids that basically have made a decision," Swofford told the Observer.

When a prospect commits to Baylor, Morriss tells them that should mean the recruit will cancel other recruiting trips and won't attend a summer camp on another campus.

But he's well aware that even when a player says he's, committed that doesn't mean he is.

"We have some kids that are committed now," Morriss said. "I don't know how many months and days it is (until signing day of 2008), but that's a long time to hang on to them."

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.




 

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