Early signing period: doing it for the kids, or doing it to the coaches?

One myth the new early signing period has exposed is the old saw about players committing to a school, not a coach.  Nobody’s buying that crap now.

Depending on who you ask, opinions vary on the college football early sign period that started Wednesday and ends at midnight tonight.

After only having 13 days to recruit before the start of the early signing period, Arkansas Razorbacks Coach Chad Morris has changed his mind and is no longer in favor of the new signing period.

Pulaski Academy Coach Kevin Kelley sees the good and bad of the new period. One of his offensive linemen, Luke Jones, committed to the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville and former Coach Bret Bielema in July but now plans to wait until Feb. 7 to sign with a school.

“One example of bad is like in Arkansas when a coach loses his job and the next coach comes in and has to hurry and recruit before the new early signing period,” Kelley said. “The recruits built relationships with old staff and they really have to make some quick decisions with the new staff. Kids don’t usually commit to buildings on a campus. They commit to people. The early signing period happens just a couple of weeks after when staffs at FBS schools turn over.”

If that’s a problem — and note that if it is, it’s only one for the program, because a recruit can back off and wait until February to get a better lay of the land — then it will be interesting to see if any serious resistance to the new period is raised over it.  Schools looking to replace a head coach are faced with a real timing dilemma.  Given that it’s going to take a very strange set of circumstances to hire a new coach in the middle of a season, that leaves the disgruntled with a couple of hard choices, either get rid of the new period altogether, or move it earlier in the year.

Either way, it’s likely that resistance will be met with resistance of its own.  If your program has stability with its coaching staff, you’re probably okay with the December period.

… On Wednesday, the coaches who prefer the early period came out of the woodwork. It isn’t early enough for everyone’s tastes—some would prefer an August signing date or no signing date at all—but the consensus among the coaches who voiced support is that it eliminated a lot of unnecessary silliness that would have taken place in January. “Personally, it really cleans up the month of January in a big way,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said.

Many of the complaints centered on the compressed time period that required coaches to secure a class while prepping for bowl games. Swinney called BS on that, pointing out that NCAA contact rules haven’t changed.

“It’s not any different than it’s ever been,” Swinney said. “We’ve always been recruiting [while prepping] for bowl games. Nothing has changed. The only thing that changed is there’s a date in December that guys can sign a piece of paper. We’re on the road recruiting. If this signing date wasn’t here today, guess what? Nothing would have changed in my life the last three weeks. Nothing. I’d have still been on the road. I’d have still been doing home visits. I’d have been at schools. We’d have been bowl prepping. We’d have been bowl practicing. Nothing would have changed. The only thing that’s different is that all the guys who are committed to us and wanted to make a decision now had the opportunity to do that. So it’s 100% to the benefit of the player.”

Another coach who loved the new date was Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy. Gundy’s staff has been excellent through the years at evaluating prospects, and that has led to other schools trying to pick off Cowboys commitments down the stretch. Gundy believes the early signing period may have made it easier for his coaches to defend the class from poachers. “It’s interesting, with the early signing period we had some poachers—not as many as in the past—but we had a few poachers,” Gundy told reporters Wednesday. “The majority of them failed, and I thought that was interesting.”

I suspect Nick Saban quietly realizes the new period is more of a benefit to him than a burden.  The results from this week seem to bear that out.

Judging by the early returns, the SEC signing classes have predictability and stability factors to them.

Georgia, Alabama and Auburn are the league’s three top-10 teams heading into the postseason, and the Bulldogs, Crimson Tide and Tigers each compiled early signing hauls that have been ranked in the top 10 by the various recruiting sites. The eight SEC schools with the same head coach from a year ago have averaged 17 early signees, while the six that have undergone changes have averaged 11.

“That’s a really big challenge, for these new coaches to have such a short period of time,” Auburn’s Gus Malzahn said Wednesday in a news conference.  [Emphasis added.]

Gus doesn’t exactly sound all choked up about that.  Not that I blame him.

Keeping up with the Sabans of the college football world just got harder.


Filed under Recruiting

12 responses to “Early signing period: doing it for the kids, or doing it to the coaches?

  1. Dolly Llama

    In the fullness of time, you reckon this will lead to schools with good recruiting classes waiting until a bit later before firing their coaches? The implicit argument of “The ESD puts schools who’ve changed coaches at a disadvantage” doesn’t seem to make much sense. What, you expect to pay no recruiting penalty if you’ve shit-canned your coach? Come on. If he’s that bad, suck it up, back up and punt (forgive the pun), and do better next year.


  2. Bright Idea

    The ESP was likely created to eliminate the foolishness associated with the first Wednesday in February and to prevent decommitments, not to help or hurt kids or coaches. Change will always create complaints. I’m with Swinney. Give this a few years and the schools will adjust. It might even save a few coaching jobs and create more opportunities for kids at the mid-majors come February.


  3. The ESP should be good for all involved except programs in transition. I don’t imagine our set of early signees would have looked great in 2015 because players wouldn’t have wanted to sign with only a couple of weeks to interact with the new staff. Coaches secure in their positions can get it over with and spend more time in January and February on future classes and filling the last few holes. Swinney is right … he was doing the exact same things he would have done if the ESP weren’t in place. Players who are ready to get it over with can do exactly that. Sign and move on to finishing high school and get their training regimen from their coach. You could make the case that gets a kid more ready when he reports in June. It seems to me the only ones who are complaining are those who are new in their jobs and a control freak who doesn’t like change.


    • Yeah and my guess is that the guys who are new to their jobs and complaining now, will feel differently next year when they can lock their guys up and make their January workload much lighter than the past by not having to defend all their commits from other schools poaching.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. FisheriesDawg

    Here’s hoping this cools some of the silliness of programs with itchy trigger fingers on good coaches. Perhaps it gets us to a place where moves that ought to be made are more clearly justified.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mayor

      ^^This. But query: Will the new recruiting window make some schools/ADs pull the trigger even faster? Like fire a HC after 2 consecutive losses at the beginning of the season so they can hire a new HC before the season is up and turn him loose on the recruiting trail?


      • Macallanlover

        I think it definitely did this year but expect this date will move next year, possibly up to August. That of course brings a whole new set of issues that will cause many to oppose. Regardless of the move date, I feel the early date is with us. And I like that, love the minimized drama.


  5. Mayor

    The problem for a kid who committed to a team that had its HC fired is two-fold: (1) If he signs with that team will he fit in with what the new HC and staff are going to be doing, and (2) If he waits will he lose that offer if the new staff uses his scholarship on someone else? A third problem looms, also. If he decides he doesn’t like the new HC/staff where he was committed, has he lost the opportunity at his other options because they have used up all their available scholarships? It’s harder being a recruit now, methinks.


  6. Comin' Down The Track

    Keeping up with the [Kirbys] of the college football world just got harder.
    FTFY 😉


  7. old dawg

    After giving it some thought,I like the early signing period. After the hay is in the barn early, all of a school’s recruiting resources can be aimed at who’s left…UGA has about 9 or so targets left so hold on Nelly…talk about swatting flies with a sledge hammer…

    I do feel for the 3 star player who get passed over for the 4 or 5 star player still out there…it’s kinda like life…God made us all equal…just some more equal than others… 😉


  8. Yeah for the early date. The coaches will adapt and the super good ones will treat it like any other advantage they have.
    And the 2 and 3 stars will find schools that really want them.
    Of course, silly me, wants a clause to let a player out if the school fires the staff after he signs.