Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but it strikes me as a rather significant acknowledgement.
Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson has long been an advocate for a rather radical change to the process of signing recruits to letters of intent –eliminating signing periods and instead allowing prospects to sign at any point when they’ve decided they’re ready to end the recruiting process.
Johnson said at the ACC meetings in early May that he thought that the option was gaining in popularity. He may have known what Division I football oversight committee chairman Bob Bowlsby acknowledged in an interview with the AJC last week – that the committee is looking into it.
“I think a case can be made for that,” Bowlsby said. He called it a “large departure from where we’ve been in the past. Maybe it’s time for consideration of that. I think that there clearly are young people that want to get the process over with. They want to take a visit in the summer and maybe an official visit in the fall and be done with it long before the February signing date. Not everybody agrees with that, but it’s certainly one point of view.”
Now, sure, this is coming from Bowlsby and it may simply be a case of saying something to get a pesky reporter off the phone, but if the NCAA is really doing more than giving lip service to the possibility of canning signing day, that would be a big deal.
Johnson’s rationale for eliminating signing periods is that, beyond giving prospects (and coaches) the chance to be finished with the recruiting process and eliminate the need for “babysitting” prospects after they’ve committed, it would also introduce more transparency to the process of giving commitments and scholarship offers. If a prospect says he wants to attend a particular school but isn’t ready to sign on the spot, then it’s a far clearer indication of his mindset than a commitment, which are often broken at the occasion of a better offer. Likewise, if a coach indicates he’s offering a scholarship but won’t give a prospect the chance to sign, then, the validity of the offer becomes more clear.
“You’ve heard the horror stories of people committed 10 times, and I think that’s not good for the schools, it’s not good for the kids,” Bowlsby said. “We need to figure out how that happens. I think there are some ways in which the student-athletes and their families can stop the recruiting process by making a commitment. Either that, or by actually signing. I think we need to bring as much honesty and transparency to the process as we possibly can.”
As Johnson points out, there really is something in this for both coaches and recruits. But having Paul Johnson as the public spokesman for the idea lacks a certain pizzazz. Maybe we could get Harbaugh and Saban to start a Twitter spat over it.