Alabama head coach Nick Saban speaks during a news conference for the NCAA college football playoff championship game Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Chris Carlson
January 10, 2016

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) Alabama coach Nick Saban and Clemson coach Dabo Swinney say they would like the NFL to push back the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft.

Underclassmen have until Jan. 18 to file declaration papers with the NFL. That will leave the players competing in Monday's College Football Playoff championship game just a week to make their decisions.

Underclassmen can request a draft evaluation from the NFL and those grades are usually received during college football's postseason. Saban said he would prefer the NFL not provide its evaluations to players until after they are done competing.

''Now, if you finish your season on Dec. 6, you can make a decision,'' Saban said Sunday during a news conference with Swinney. ''If you're finishing it on Jan. 11, then you get the information after that, but you have a significant amount of time to make that decision when you finish playing so you can stay focused on what you need to do to play well, because it benefits all these players to play well in the game.''

Saban has said that last year during the lead up to Alabama's playoff loss to Ohio State the draft declaration date and evaluation process wasn't conducive to preparing a team to play.

Swinney agreed, calling it a distraction. Swinney said he knows which Clemson underclassmen will be leaving early, even those who have not announced.

''''It's one of the things that I don't like the timing of all that stuff, but it is what it is, so no sense in acting like it's not there,'' Swinney said.

Clemson junior defensive end Shaq Lawson said in early December that he would be leaving early.

''They're focused on the game,'' Swinney said. ''All these guys understand that they have a tremendous opportunity, and they've done a nice job of focusing on getting themselves ready.''

Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey said the declaration deadline is not an agenda issue for conferences. That calendar is set by the NFL.

''To Nick's credit he's not simply observed a problem. He's worked to identify some solutions,'' Sankey said. ''We've tried to help provide resources to educate young people on the draft.''

Pushing back the draft declaration deadline for underclassmen would move it closer to signing day, which is always the Wednesday of the first full week of February. That could create issues for teams and coaches trying to fill rosters for next season.

Sankey noted that the NCAA has tried to provide more time for college basketball underclassmen to decide if they want to declare for the NBA draft and retain eligibility, and that those changes could potentially affect a team's Academic Progress Rating, enrollment of incoming players and recruiting.

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