Andy Staples seems to think there are plenty of repercussions coming from the soon-to-be enacted December signing period.
The new signing period, a three-day window that matches when junior college players are allowed to sign now, wouldn’t replace the period that begins with National Signing Day in February. But given how early most recruits make their college choices, the bulk of the signing action likely would move to December, just as most of the National Letters of Intent for basketball are collected in November instead of the also-available April period.
The changes would do more than change when players sign, though. They could fundamentally alter the way the Recruiting Industrial Complex does business in ways that could help the high-schoolers and some of the coaches chasing them. They also might change the way athletic directors decide when to fire and hire coaches. “It’s the most wholesale change to recruiting in the 11 years since I started working in college football,” said Matt Dudek, who serves as Arizona’s director of on-campus recruiting and player personnel.
The hiring and firing thought is particularly of interest.
For example, new/old Connecticut coach Randy Edsall wouldn’t have made news last week for dropping a long-committed player less than a month before signing day. Had the December signing period been in effect for this recruiting cycle, New Jersey linebacker Ryan Dickens—committed since June 2016—would have signed a National Letter of Intent before Connecticut AD David Benedict fired Bob Diaco, the coach who recruited Dickens. (Diaco was fired effective Jan. 2, which, conveniently, was a day after his buyout dropped by $1.6 million.) Edsall wouldn’t have had the option to stiff a high schooler under the new rules, though it’s possible Benedict may have made his decision sooner.
Most firings now come in November or early December. Most new coaches get hired in the first two weeks of December. Hiring a new coach days before signing day could create high drama. But when SI asked several Power 5 athletic directors last week if the new signing period would change when the firing/hiring decisions got made, most respondents said it would not. They reasoned that the decision to change coaches is too big to allow the possibility of a few players being signed to change the timetable.
One AD wasn’t so sure, though. “If a school has some high profile commits but a poor record, the early signing day may save a coach his job more so than with the current calendar,” the AD said. “Or schools may try to poach a coach mid-season, which I’m sure would be well received by all.” (That last line dripped with sarcasm.)
Or, there’s the other possibility: an AD allows a coach to lock in at least part of a heralded recruiting class in December and then unceremoniously shows him the door in January, allowing the next guy to reap the rewards. So, who knows how it goes? (In any event, retaining a coach to keep a class together is dumb, dumb, dumb, even by the low standards of most athletic directors these days.)
While I’m not sure there’s going to be much impact in that area, I do think Staples nails this part:
The earlier date also could force coaching staffs to declare whether a scholarship offer means what they say it does. Every year, a few players learn shortly before National Signing Day that the “offer” they thought they had either evaporated or was replaced by an offer to “grayshirt,” to delay enrollment a semester and go on scholarship in January of the following year. “Everybody’s going to have to show their cards two months earlier,” Dudek says. And the players left without an offer would have two months to find another scholarship instead of a few weeks. Meanwhile, recruits stringing along more than one staff also would have to declare their intentions earlier.
Man, this could give the Johnson Doctrine a whole new shot in the arm.
There are other areas Staples points to that could feel an impact from the new regime; it’ll probably take a little while to sort everything out. One thing I’m sure of, though, is that Nick Saban already has three junior staffers gaming everything out as I type this.