Early Signing Period Is Not The Answer
Ever since February 7, 2008, there has been a race on to get the jump start on the 2009 recruiting season which will culminate on the 2009 version of LOI Day. As of this moment Texas as 19 verbal commitments and USC has 15, and the 2008 season hasn't even started.
Many people who follow recruiting know that there is a good possibility that a few of those commits will go back on their word and choose another school by the time the LOI is signed and faxed. This causes a lot of heartache and anger in coaching staffs across the nation because just when they think they have their class just the way they want it; their 5-star athlete jump ship for another school in their conference.
With that being said, it seems that year after year there is more of a calling for an early signing period in college football just like in college basketball. When you quickly glance at the subject, it sounds great on paper. Especially for coaches since they can lock up players and have their class figured out, but for high school kids, it can be a huge gamble.
First remember that nothing in recruiting is biding, not the verbal offer, verbal agreement, or even written offer letter until LOI Day. There are ways for schools to get out giving an athlete a scholarship even after they sent a written offer letter to the kid. There is fine print in there that states that the school can pull the offer if it sees a dip in the kids production on the field. Well that right there covers a broad spectrum.
If you read recruiting publications like Rivals.com or Scout.com you are most notably reading about visits, whether they be official or unofficial, by kids to numerous schools. Most of the time you will hear the phrase "I felt comfortable there," or "I felt really good about the coaching staff." These are 17/18 year old kids who are going to be leaving home for the first time in their lives, a good part of their choice is to go to a school where they feel they will play and that they feel at home for the next 3 to 5 years of their lives.
Insert an early signing period in December. Now look back at the 2007 season and look at that month and the amount of coaching changes that happen during that month. How is it fair to a kid who just recently signed a binding contract to attend your school to play for a coach who just got fired, or better yet, jumped ship for another school?
Imagine the impact it would've had at a school like Michigan. The style of offense under Lloyd Carr is completely different than what will be run under Rich Rod. But under that binding contract, the recruit, if he chose to transfer, would be required to sit out a year. Where as a coach can hop from job to job without sitting out any time. Most of the time they don't even honor the contract they signed at a school, because if they want out, they can find a way out.
You are probably saying, well the NCAA could rule and allow waivers. The NCAA moves at a snails pace most of the time. Look at what has been going on with the Reggie Bush/USC investigation. Also, each year you hear about a recruit's eligibility in question because the NCAA has not passed them through the Clearinghouse. I for one do not trust the NCAA in this matter to rule swiftly and justly.
There is so much pressure right now on these 17 and 18 year old kids. This decision for college is probably the biggest one they have made in their lives to date, and maybe one of the most important decisions they will make in their lives. Coaches continually pressure them to verbally commit, without a full commitment on their part as I stated above.
I just hope the NCAA doesn't listen to the little murmur that has been going around and keep the recruit schedule the way it is right now. By February the coaching staffs are 99% of the time set and there is no need for an early signing period. If a kid is set on a school he will honor that commitment and feel safe that he is making the right decision for his future.