clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Early Signing Period Is Bad Medicine.

I've been out of commision for a little while, primarily because of my day job. Luckily Kyle has been keeping you up to date on college baseball , blogging business , and the similarities between he and Joe Hamilton (sidenote: I've quarterbacked the Yellow Jackets to as many gridiron victories over the Georgia Bulldogs as Reggie Ball, A.J. Suggs and Taylor Bennett combined).

While I was out being litigious, the subject of an early signing period for football came up again. The SEC coaches voted yea . After some soul searching, Paul Westerdawg agreed .

Now, I've considered this before. And I simply cannot fault anyone for coming down on either side of the issue. Because I've struggled with it myself. So, I'm reconsidering it now. . .OK. Reconsideration complete. It's still a bad idea. Here's why.

The people who want this are without question the ones who would benefit from it. SEC coaches know that if a kid has to choose between them and Middle Tennessee State in November, they'll win every time. But if they have to worry about USC and Notre Dame jumping in on the sweepstakes in January, they might lose the battle. Athletic directors like the idea because recruiting is expensive, even when Willie Williams ins't involved. And AD's don't like to spend money. Unless Bobby Petrino is involved. Perhaps I'm becoming something of a cynic as time goes by, but I find myself more and more skeptical of arguments, even good ones, which begin from a position of self-interest.

Now, some of that self-interest may not be unreasonable. Currently, coaches spend a lot of time recruiting players, getting commitments, and then babysitting those commitments through Signing Day. That time could be spent on other pursuits, like family and community obligations. But if you believe that Urban Meyer will take his newfound free time and use it to volunteer at the YMCA or nurture his Bernie Focker-esque interest in Capoeira , you are wrong, wrong, wrong. He will likely be in his orange and blue bunker breaking down more game tape.

Also, the arguments in favor of any early signing period sound good in theory, but will empirically disappear. The early signing period for basketball has not "stopped the madness". It's accelerated it. The basketball early signing period (along with AAU madness) helps Billie Gillespie be the only man in Kentucky chasing eighth grade boys around without having to register his name and address with the state. An early signing period will not solve the core problem: college football coaches and their schools have millions of dollars riding on the outcome of football games. An early signing period will not solve that core, almost primal, motivation. Nick Saban, when confronted with an early signing period, will respond by sending his assistants out to Ronnie Van Zant Junior High to get an early edge. Book it.

Some say that this will let coaches know which commits are "shaky". I think they already know. I knew Dwayne Allen was wavering before he decommitted. Who didn't? The only way he could have wavered more would have been for him to legally change his last name to Bowden. But that's a calculated risk that coaches take when they're chasing the really big fish on the recruiting trail.

And it's a risk that an early signing period simply will not solve. Because realistically, coaches won't make the Dwayne Allens and Knowshon Morenos and Reshad Joneses and Terrelle Pryors of the world decide before they're good and ready. An early signing period would really only affect the "tweeners" like Martin Ward, who committed to Georgia as an insurance policy. And you're just as likely to benefit from losing those prospects (and consequently having another scholarship to give late in the cycle) as you are by keeping them. Especially if you're an SEC/ACC/Big 10 school who can cherrypick players late in the process.

I also don't necessarily buy the argument that an early signing period lets recruits "end the process early". Because they can do that if they really want to under the current system. Does anyone out there honestly believe that when a commited recruit sees Pete Carroll's cellphone number on the caller ID that he is somehow compelled to answer by the laws of physics? I don't. And if you don't want to deal with the recruiting mail after you've made a commitment, just don't open it. Reclusive old ladies who live only with their cats have been taking this approach to postal delivery for years, Ed McMahon be damned. It works for them.

And "ending it early" is not, ipso facto, a good thing. I gurantee that you'll start seeing a lot of cases of buyer's remorse if an early signing period is put in place. Imagine how much fun it would have been for Notre Dame's 2008 recruiting class to answer the phone after the Navy game this past season. The February Signing Day also allows for some shakeout from offseason coaching changes, which normally occur in December and January. Call it "The Dick Rod Principle", if you will. Or "The Saban Situation". Again, the people who get stepped on, screwed around with, and otherwise limited by an early signing period are the kids, who are already at a decided disadvantage in what is (gasp!) a financial transaction between a multimillion dollar entity (State U.) and a comparatively powerless individual.

All this of course assumes that coaches will be completely honest with the early signees about the situation that recruit will be walking into. That is a very perilous assumption. Question: what happens when a player commits because Charlie Weis (strictly for example's sake, totally hypothetically) tells him that the kid is the only tailback the Golden Domers are after, then goes out and signs two more in February? Answer: kid feels lied to, even if Weis had no idea the other two were even interested until January.

In the end analysis, the college football recruiting model is out of whack in a variety of ways. But this particular cure is worse than the disease. Keep trying, folks.