ACC proposes early signing period for football.

While engaged in Tavarres King Watch '07, I managed to miss the news from the Charlotte Observer that the ACC is proposing an early signing period for football similar to the one already in place in other NCAA-sanctioned sports. The ACC proposal would set the early signing date as the Wednesday before the third week of December, and keep the current early February date in place for those student-athletes who need a little more time.

I've been mulling this idea for some time and have to admit it's an incredibly complex issue, with a variety of pros and cons. Ultimately, the issue is similar to tax reform legislation, in that the list of supporters versus detractors is a function not only of ideology, but a question of who will end up paying more under the new system.

Case in point: Baylor coach Guy Morriss, who notes that it's difficult to recover when a player decommits. Essentially it puts grown men like Morriss in the position of not only begging teenage boys to come play for them, but also to forget that two months earlier said grown man chose to offer the same scholarship to another teenage boy, who then jilted same grown man. That has to be a tad awkward.

It seems the arguments in favor of a new, early signing period break down like this:

* More players are committing early after attending summer camps at colleges, so there's no reason to prolong the process for those players.It detracts from school work, family time and obligations to the recruited player's high school team.

* It costs a lot of money to recruit at the D-1A level, and coaches are not going to voluntarily stop calling/visiting players within the bounds of the rules. An early period would cut down on the costly contact with some players.Since the number of contacts is limited on a per-player basis, large sums could be redirected away from January/February trips to shore up shaky verbals.

* Recruiters would no longer hassle committed players if they've signed.There are a lot of stories about recruits being bothered during school or even in the early hours of the morning by college coaches, even after they've verbally committed. In fact for some this is only the beginning of the process.

* It could cut down on players "de-committing" to schools.The fierce recruiting that breaks out once a leader is identified could be eliminated if the game was over with that initial announcement.

I think the first three are laudible goals which would benefit the players. However, it's the last one that seems to be foremost in the minds of the coaches and athletic directors who are pushing the idea. Now, as Georgia fans, we know a thing or two about decommitting players. But I just don't like this justification, for a very novel reason. I don't think it's in players' best interests.

Why you ask? Because I'm a capitalist. Not a laissez faire, repeal the minimum wage/child labor laws capitalist, but I do like to think that people should be given a choice in the marketplace. Given a choice, people are more likely to do what's in their best interest, and that's good for all of us.

But suppose you're a high school quarterback in Montana (work with me, please). You get an early offer from two schools, which we'll call Faylor and Danderbilt . They're both excellent academic schools, but their football programs leave something to be desired. However, they work very hard to identify players who can meet their lofty academic standards and are good enough to play at the D-1A level. These players are not often offered scholarships by the Southern Cal's and Ohio States of the world. If they were, they would likely jump on them.

Faylor's coach, Dude Lorriss, tells you that you could be the starting quarterback at Faylor as a freshman (another favorite recruiting tactic of the Danderbilts of the world). But he wants you to commit during the NCAA's new early signing period. Otherwise he's moving on to this other kid from South Dakota with a rocket arm. This troubles you because you've sent tape out to Pete Carroll of Southern Cal. He likes what he sees, but wants to see more of you before offering a scholarship.

You find yourself smack dab in the middle of a dilemma. Do you commit to the weak sister school or do you wait it out? I'd argue that as a 17 year old you shouldn't have to make that choice. It creates an additional incentive for grown men, usually earning hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars, to strong arm teenagers in what is (gasp!) essentially an economic transaction.

Remember the case of Joe Cox? Cox was all set to play for Duke, and even verbally committed to the Dookies. But he ultimately wanted to play at Georgia, and jumped on the offer from Coach Richt as soon as he received it. Now, while that's bad for Ted Roof, I'm just not sympathetic to claims about the welfare of millionaire football coaches. I'm much more concerned with preserving the bargaining power of the teenager.

At the same time, I do think an early signing period might do away with some of the madness surrounding recruiting. In this respect it might put a crimp in the business of recruiting sites. Or, it might give them a new and exciting angle to pursue. If a guy who gave a verbal commitment back in September doesn't sign a letter of intent in December, I guarantee questions will arise. I'm sure they could just move on to other players, anyway.

Ultimately, I'm still on the fence about this proposal, and I could use some convincing one way or the other. While I can see the potential benefit to the early signing period, my general cynicism regarding the recruiting process and the motives of coaches prevents a whole-hearted endorsement. Can anybody help me out of this quandry?

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