Chip Towers recently posted on his AJ-C blog that
… there ought to be an early signing period for football players, just like there is for basketball players. I think it should be set around the first week of August, right before these recruits get set to enter their senior years and final high school football seasons. This way they have all summer to make up their minds, sign a letter of intent in August, then relax and enjoy their senior seasons without having to be hounded and confused for the next six months.
C’mon, Chip. The obvious beneficiary of an early signing period is the school, not the kid.
Don’t believe me? Well, how relaxed does this top basketball recruit sound to you?
Greg Monroe, a 6-foot-9, 195-pound power forward from Harvey, La., is among the prospects in the class entering college in 2008 who must decide whether to sign a letter of intent during the early signing period, Nov. 14-21, or during late signing period next year, April 16 through May 21.
Monroe is the nation’s top-ranked player in his class, and he said he often wondered if the coaches who offered him scholarships would be there for his freshman season. He said he had not decided if or when he would sign a letter of intent.
“The coach is the main component of your decision,” Monroe said. “It’s always in the back of your mind now that he might be gone.”
It’s a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation for some of these kids:
There are potential pitfalls for players who wait until the late signing period, especially for those who are not elite prospects, Telep said. They risk scholarship offers being rescinded.
“The power is still with the school, because at the end of the day people get nervous if you start removing options off their plate,” Telep said.
I can see a somewhat reasonable compromise in this proposal:
… Florida Coach Billy Donovan said the letter-of-intent agreement between a recruit and a college should be changed to include a clause that would allow a player to transfer without penalty if the program’s coach leaves before the player’s enrollment. Currently, if a university does not release a player from his commitment, he must sit out a season if he transfers to another Division I program.
“If a coach has the freedom to pick up and leave and go somewhere else, the kid should, too,” said Donovan, adding that he thought it was naïve to believe that a player’s decision to sign a letter of intent was based solely on the university.
“If that was it, why do we as coaches have to go out and recruit?” Donovan said.
The reason this is of interest is because the ACC football coaches have just gone on record as favoring an early signing period:
League football coaches would like to create an early signing period in December. Swofford said the ACC will pursue the idea with the National Letter of Intent Program, which is run by the Collegiate Commissioners Association.
“Our coaches just feel that because we have early signing periods in so many other sports, it makes sense to do it in football,” Swofford said. “If a young man is ready to sign and end the recruiting process, he should have the option to do so.”
Swofford emphasized that the ACC wanted to be a part of a national movement toward an early signing date and would not do so unilaterally. Unlike college basketball, which has both early (November) and late (April) signing periods, college football has only a February period.
If this proposal gains a head of steam, expect lots of empty platitudes about giving the kids the opportunity to relax in their senior year, but don’t expect any Donovan-like empowerment to be seriously considered. The schools are in it for themselves.
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