#DearAndy: Should there be an early signing period for football recruits?
Between a new member of the College Football Playoff selection committee and the fallout from National Signing Day, you had plenty of excellent questions this week.
Here is what I answered in the video …
• Can the newest playoff selection committee member help the Big 12 overcome its lack of Signing Day national championships?
• Do I like okra?
• Why didn’t Kanye West step in front of Ohio State?
Read on for more questions and answers …
From @RichStankewicz: What do you think about an early signing period (in football)?
I would prefer that coaches be allowed to sign players to scholarships at any point during their high school careers because nothing would derail the current system of “offers” and “commitments” quite like forcing coaches to have to offer something meaningful. Few high school sophomores would receive scholarship “offers” from college coaches if those promises were actually attached to one of the program’s 85 allotted scholarships. After the first wave of trigger-happy coaches got fired, the process would slow down, and coaches would take more time before making promises they might not be able to keep.
But since only Bo Pelini agrees with my stance, it isn’t going to happen. The more likely scenario is that players will be allowed to sign in mid-December. Yet that would protect the coaches and no one else. Basically, it would allow the coaches to focus on fewer prospects in January and get a better jump on future classes.
I don’t mind an early signing period in theory because the vast majority of recruits know where they want to go, are happy with their decisions and shouldn’t have to wait. But cutting a month off of the process isn’t going to change much. It might be nice if the players who make up their minds really early had a chance to sign before their senior seasons begin, but that isn’t going to happen, either. Athletic directors would hate that since it would make it more difficult to fire a coach if he underperformed. The coach would have the leverage of half a signing class in the barn, and the AD might have to wrestle with double-digit players asking to be released from their National Letters of Intent. This happens all the time in basketball, but it’s different when the coach has 15 players signed instead of three.
If schools want an early signing period in football, here’s how it should work:
• Schools would have one week in August to sign players.
• The NLI would have to change. Remember, this is already the worst contract in American sports. In this scenario, recruits would give up their leverage even earlier with no real promise of anything in return. They’d need to truly understand that before they signed. That way they couldn’t complain later. So, the NLI would need to look like a pack of cigarettes in Singapore. Instead of featuring a picture of a diseased lung, the NLI would include a warning paragraph that states: “You are signing a terrible contract that will eliminate all of your leverage. The financial aid agreement you're signing gives you the same scholarship without removing that leverage. The school can still deny you that scholarship if it oversigns. The school could also decide not to admit you. The head coach recruiting you may get fired. The position coach recruiting you is probably already looking at other jobs. If you sign this, you’re stuck. If this is O.K., feel free to sign below.”
• This plan would require one more rule change that I’ll address in the answer to the next question.
From @RowsofCorn: What are the origins of why official visits can’t start until August? Why not after a recruit completes his junior year? Why no bigger push to reform?
It would make perfect sense, since college coaches routinely pressure players to visit and commit during the spring of their junior years and the summer between their junior and senior years of high school, to allow school-paid official visits to begin in the spring of a prospect’s junior year. This would be completely logical, and some have been suggesting it for a while now.
Earlier official visits haven’t happened because college coaches don’t want them to happen. At the moment, the only period a college coach can take a vacation is the summer, and coaches believe this would eliminate that opportunity because they’d be hosting official visitors. Never mind that coaches are adults who could simply say, “I’m taking a vacation this week” and schedule visits around it. They would prefer time off be regulated, as that makes their lives easier.
Earlier official visits would allow low-income prospects to make more informed decisions. It would help geographically isolated schools like Nebraska expose their programs to recruits who can’t afford unofficial visits. It would also help choke out the cottage industry of shady dudes loading high schoolers into vans and driving them to multiple unofficial visits over the summer — and maybe the envelopes full of cash that appear under the hotel room doors of said shady dudes in exchange for their time and trouble.
Despite all of these potential benefits, official visits still can’t start until a prospect’s senior year. But remember, it’s all about the kids.
From @brischke: Are conferences required to appoint ADs for the College Football Playoff committee? I still say the Big 12 should have appointed an old coach (Mack Brown or Grant Teaff).
Here’s the official reason there are sitting athletic directors on the committee from the College Football Playoff’s FAQ page: “The directors of athletics have some of the best institutional knowledge of college football, and the selection committee is much stronger with their participation.”
That sentence is true, but here’s the real reason. It’s no accident there are five sitting ADs on the selection committee and that each one comes from a different Power Five conference. No matter what anyone says, the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC run the sport, and those leagues were going to make sure they had strong voices on the committee. Also, sitting ADs regularly report to league commissioners and have professional and financial reasons for acting in the best interests of their conference. The better it does, the more money that AD’s school gets in a conference payout. A fraction of that could wind up in the AD’s paycheck.
Having sitting athletic directors also cuts down on potential malfeasance. If a sitting AD monkeyed with the selection process and that became public, that AD would be fired immediately and probably blackballed from the industry. So, they have a more powerful incentive to do the right thing than a retired person who has already made his bones and has nothing to lose.
From @GoDuckYourself: Could Vernon Adams put the Ducks back into the driver’s seat for the Pac-12 title and a playoff spot?
Still, Adams’ performance at Eastern Washington — including monster outings at Oregon State (2013) and Washington (’14) — suggest the graduate transfer could light up Pac-12 competition. This is especially intriguing when you consider the talent upgrade Adams will see on the line and in his fellow skill-position players.
Another factor that can’t be overlooked is Adams’ experience leading a perennial winner. He has already led a program that expects to win championships, so he should have little problem adjusting to the Ducks’ team culture. Knowing the way Oregon coaches recruit, it’s an absolute certainty that Mark Helfrich and staff did the math on how Adams would fit within that culture before offering him a scholarship. Those Pac-12 defensive coordinators who breathed a little easier when Marcus Mariota turned pro probably feel their lungs tightening a bit.