The early signing shuffle

You may have noticed that Mark Richt jumped into the early signing period debate yesterday with some comments that appeared in the AJ-C.  He wasn’t as strident – or as personal –  about the subject as Stanford’s David Shaw.  Rather, it was the conservative Richt, warning about the dangers of opening Pandora’s box:

“I always say ‘Be careful what we ask for’ because I don’t know what that will do to our recruiting calendar. I think there’s some sanity to it right now. I think if everybody plays by the same rules, then it’s good as it is. I’d be afraid to change it. I don’t want to turn the regular season into such a recruiting frenzy that you can’t even coach your team on a weekly basis. I enjoy coaching football, too.

“I think if you moved the signing date up, I think you push more official visits to the football season. Sooner or later, they’ll say ‘We don’t want all these official visits during the season. Why don’t we move them to the summer?’ Then we’ll have official visits in the summer, and no one will get any time away. Not me, not our assistants coaches, not the kids, not the high school coaches, and not the families. Where does it end?

“I think we’ve got a pretty good setup now. No matter what system you use, there’s going to be some bugs in it, and there’s going to be some things you don’t like about it. That’s why I say ‘Be careful what you ask for” because if you do that, what’s going to be the aftermath? That’s what I’m worried about. I can’t even say what it’s going to be, but I’ve got a feeling it will be like ‘Why in the world did we do that?’”

John Infante agrees that there are a lot of moving parts the NCAA has to consider with such a change.

I am not a fan of a football early signing period for the simple reason that right now football sidesteps a lot of problems by signing players to binding NLIs after the coaching carousel has wound down. I do not agree with Shaw that the prospects “always” win release appeals, but the number of requests for release would go up sharply if more coaching turnover after signing is introduced. On the other hand, the emerging trend of assistants remaining in jobs until the next class is signed before leaving or being fired reduces this benefit. It is only a matter of time before a school lets a head coach sign a class, then fires him and tries to enforce the NLI against many or all of those prospects.

And while I’m normally skeptical of college football’s claims that things which work in other sports would not work in football, signing in the middle of the season would be a challenge. An early signing period, especially with the corresponding recruiting changes mentioned by Peal, do little to alleviate the frenzy surrounding the run-in to signing day. Moving it to November, the heart of the college football season, would be a significant disruption.

The alternatives would be to open the signing period sometime before or after the regular football season. A December signing period, perhaps piggybacking on the current December period for midyear junior college transfers has limited benefit and is unlikely to be popular since it gives an advantage to coaches who are not in bowls. A summer signing period would be more than two months earlier than any other sport and necessitate even greater changes to NCAA recruiting rules including official visits and greater communication with juniors.

That being said, I had to chuckle a little when I read this:

When it comes to recruiting proposals, the thing to always keep in mind is that coaches generally do not like recruiting. Only a few rare coaches enjoy the travel, the salesmanship, the handlers, and the uncertainty. Even many of the coaches who are good at it see it as a necessary evil. Anyone who has figured out a system for being good at a part of their job they do not enjoy is not going to support changes that require them to rethink how they do that task.

What about a coach who’s not good at a part of a job he doesn’t enjoy?  Well, sign Paul Johnson up for that early bad boy right now.

“It’s nuts right now. And financially, it doesn’t make sense to not have an early signing period. If you’ve got a kid who grew up wanting to go to Georgia Tech, Georgia, Alabama, or wherever, and they’ve known that their whole life, why not let them sign in November or December? Why do they have to wait until February?

“And then when they sign, the schools know exactly how many scholarships that they have left. They know exactly the numbers. It wouldn’t be as chaotic, and it would be a whole lot less expensive than trying to babysit them for three months.”

Does it surprise you that the mastermind behind the Johnson Doctrine would say something like this?

“Every other sport has an early signing period but us. It hasn’t affected basketball that much. You don’t see all the de-commitments in basketball. They are recruiting less people but they also have an early signing date. There’s a couple of reasons. Once a kid commits, they don’t let them visit anywhere else if they’re committed. If they do, they’re not committed, same as everybody else. That’s one. And number two, they sign early. So if they are committed and signing early, it’s over. They don’t have an extra 10 weeks to be hammered and talked out of what they thought they wanted to do. And it’s like I always said: If a kid isn’t sure what he really wants to do, then don’t sign early. Just go through recruiting, and they’ll have another date to sign in February.”

Still, even Johnson acknowledges the specter of player transfers that Shaw is concerned about is something that would have to be addressed with the rule change (“You could have a provision in there that if the coach changed, then the early signing was null and void. That would protect (the kids) that way.”)  Yeah, that’s gonna happen.

Whatever comes of this, you can be sure of two things if a change is made.  One, it will be justified as a move that favors recruits.  Two, that will be complete bullshit.


Filed under Recruiting, The NCAA

12 responses to “The early signing shuffle

  1. I think PJ still has some things on his mind from the last recruiting period.
    Let it go Paul.


    • 69Dawg

      And to think Douglas will become a fullback, at least I hope they can keep him on the field. With the way our RB group is going to be he will be at the end of a long line.


  2. Go Dawgs!

    If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

    And Coach Johnson, if you’ve got yourself one of these mythical kids who has grown up his entire life wanting to go to Georgia Tech and he knows that’s what he wants to do … then what difference does it make if he has to wait to sign in February instead of November? It sounds like that kid’s one of the rare players you don’t have to worry about de-committing. No, FishFry, you’re worried about some kid you offered as a junior and pressured into a commitment and you’re concerned that he might be good enough for Georgia or FSU or Auburn or whoever to start recruiting as well. Paul Johnson would love the early signing period not just because it might cut down on the de-commits, but it would also give him a chance to put the Johnson Doctrine into play earlier and lock up more kids into a life of boring offense with no women and lots of muggings.


    • W Cobb Dawg

      But gtu players are so smart they can ALL qualify and enter class early, in January! So doesn’t cpj already have a huge advantage over all us dum, er I mean dumb, schools?


  3. Just Chuck (The Other One)

    It’s when stuff like this comes up that I realize how much I appreciate the thoughtful person that Mark Richt is. So many times in so many places (business, education, politics, etc.) a proposal comes up and everyone jumps on the bandwagon just because it seems like a good idea. We’d save a lot of time and resources by stopping to consider if there might be a downside but few people take the time to do that. There is considerable downside to early signing in football. I appreciate the fact that Coach Richt realizes that.


  4. mdcgtp

    As is normal for me, I see both sides pretty clearly.

    That said, from my perspective, anything that reins in the “hat dances” and reduces the amount of time that Tom Luginbill has to pontificate about shit he does not know about is a good thing.

    In suggesting that recruiting would be moved to the summer, Richt does NOT factor in the fact that locking down those kids reduces the effort that has to be paid to them to avoid the decommittment from Nov-Jan, and if written properly (which surely WON’T happen!!!!) rules can theoretically restrict the amount of effort required for those prospects that remain uncommitted.

    Ultimately, add a couple of stipulations. If the head coach is fired, a kid is free. the asst coach is tricky for the scenario of “what if a spread QB signs and they install a prostyle scheme? or vice versa for a TE?” theoretically, both parties should be free. that said, how do you grant that exception to a QB but not a 3-4/4-3 player? what about a RB or WR?

    Ultimately, you could simply have a continuous signing period that runs all the time. a kid can sign anytime he is ready to committ. that would DRASTICALLY force programs to cut back on early “non-committal” offers. Player 1 on a list might be given a deadline with say a month to decide and player 2 on the list might be told clearly they are waiting on player 1. if he accepts, we don’t have spot for you.

    Bottom line- the earlier they sign. the less information teams have. that always creates an opportunity for a program to hold out space for a guy that emerges his senior year.

    I guess what I am saying is that…if i were coaches, I would be all for it, and I honestly can’t think of a scenario where its bad for the player if we give him the appropriate outs. I guess I have to think through how this affects the “middle class” player. the star is going to get the ability to wait til the end. would this result in more programs putting more pressure on kids to sign early? OR does it merely codify the same conditions we already give out, (i.e., we tell 5 OTs that the first 3 to commit get the spots).


  5. Cojones

    Johnson’s statements translate to fear of someone convincing his lifer committment (after a kid discovers that he can now make decisions without a yellow pennant waving in his face) to flip. Now that he can decide for his future and commits elsewhere, Paul says he was “hammered” into it by other recruiters. Isn’t there any player out there who flipped to Tech? Paul sounds like he doesn’t know of one.

    What does Vad Lee’s transfer do to Paul’s recruiting confidence? And his pitch. I’m beginning to think ole’ Paul latches onto bad weed sometimes.


  6. There is no such thing as bad weed.


  7. NewnanDawg

    The early signing period is a double edged sword in a lot of ways for the kids and the schools. I have pushed for quite some time that a minor adjustment to the official visit policy would help tremendously. Leave the total at 5, but allow the kids to start taking them Spring semester of their Junior year. So many of the guys don’t have the financial and logistical support to visit multiple schools unofficially. They commit to the first place they see, then waffle when they go on officials and see more. If you give them 5 visits covered by the schools that can start as a junior, they can make a more informed decision earlier in the process. It would definitely reduce the switching late in the process. There will always be some kids that want the hat drama, etc. no matter what is changed.