Yesterday we gave some thoughts on Paul Johnson's recruiting policy and why, in a nutshell, we detest it here. Today we tackle another issue that's sort of become vogue to discuss in college football, the early signing period. It is something the American Football Coaches Association is in favor of as well as a move the bulk of FBS and FCS coaches want implemented.
To bring everyone up to speed; most college sports have an early signing period. A period in the fall or spring that is months before the "regular" signing date. Kids can ink their National Letter of Intent on that day and they claim their scholarship, stop the recruiting process and proceed with their final season without the worry of all that comes with picking a school.
Football players, aside from the JUCO ranks, have no such period. Ball players, even those enrolled early for the spring semester, must wait until the first Wednesday in February to sign their name on the line, claim their scholarship and fax their LOIs into the university.
In 2009 the coaches and AFCA backed an "early signing period" for football that would have created a third Wednesday in December early signing date. So far no dice but it is something that folks continue to push as a sort of "fix" for some issues in college football.
My problem with all of this?
Most of the reasoning has little to do with protecting kids. Yes, Andy Staples' point from the previous link is one that I'd absolutely love to see remedied but the bulk of the reasoning is incredibly school or media-sided.
-Stops schools from having to continuously recruit committed kids.
-Stops coaches from being hung out to dry by late signing day switches.
-Dissipates some of the "circus" of signing day.
For starters I don't care about schools having to continuously recruit kids. That's your job. Do it. Be better at it than other people and then you won't get banged on come signing day or in the days leading up to it. Stop complaining about it and get out there and do it. You'll notice it is only a problem when a school's kids get flipped, the continuous recruiting is never a problem when the school flips someone heading into signing day.
When coaches get left at the altar for signing day one of two things happens. They either end up with a less than 25 scholarship class OR they get on the phone and let the kid they couldn't take know that a spot opened and they pull a kid who would have signed somewhere else. The poachee becomes the poacher and the process continues on down the list. LSU lost Gunner Kiel, LSU turns around and makes sure to get Jeremy Liggins. Ole Miss is now looking for someone to fill that slot. Hugh Freeze will either fill that spot with a kid or he'll go in under cap for the 2012 cycle.
That's the circle of recruiting life.
As for the "circus" surrounding signing day, I fail to see the problem. Correction, I see what most people call a problem but I fail to see it as a problem. Chadd Scott sees the value of the date to the sport itselfbut many, many others don't. As media types, bloggers, fans and the like we're bombarded year in and year out with extravagant announcements, suspenseful declarations and showy selections. We see them happening all over the country. They come stacked, one on top of another on signing day and in the days leading up to it.
In short, we're jaded.
Our eyes are poisoned by the volume of the acts that we take in and digest on a yearly basis. We call it a circus because to us it is something that comes to town around the same time each year and while the actual performers change the act itself is nearly identical to the one we watched a year ago. And the year before. And the year before.
I implore you to take a step back. Take off your "these damned kids are out of control" glasses that are the product of year after year of announcement sessions that have built up an insensitivity to the individuals involved. See it for what it is; one kid's choice for one time in his life.
That's all it is folks. One kids moment for once in his life. While you may have seen 50 other kids do it, he's only done it once in his life. You may be weary from following an entire classes up and downs and announcements for the last decade. He's not. He's only done the process once. Once is all he gets. See it as such and let him enjoy the last actual fun that he'll have. He'll find out pretty soon just like Darnell Jefferson in The Program, once you get to college there are no band or dancing honies waiting on you. Just football and a bunch of dudes that can't wait to test if you're really that good.
With respect to the proposal itself, I really don't see the point. The third Wednesday in December is merely six weeks prior to the actual signing day itself. Six weeks. A month and a half. Meh. Pish posh really. That's nothing. Basketball you're talking November early period followed by an April normal period.
We're talking months, not a month and two weeks. Totally incongruous. They're not even remotely akin to one another. To talk "equity" from that angle it would mean an August signing period followed by the normal February signing date.
The problem with that is simple; football is not basketball. With basketball the process is elongated at this point. Hundreds of AAU games, scouting kids for classes two to three years down the road and plenty of fluidity in competition to assess a player's true talent level. Forecasting for roundball is on a whole other level.
In football that doesn't exist. Basketball players play more games in the summer than most football players play in their entire high school career. Yes, we are seeing the rise of the seven on seven phenomena but that is only showing once facet of a player's ability and skills; that'd be like if one on one was used to pick basketball players. You can tell a little about a player but the only true test of a linebacker, a safety, a quarterback or a running back are how they play the game. An actual game. Where it isn't all pass plays and the element of the unknown is involved.
Football is compacted. It is shorter in recruiting evaluation terms. Less film. Less games played. Less fluidity in competition. If you're a 1A football player there is no AAU team for you to play in over the summer to showcase your skills against top level talent. You play your 1A football against 1A players and it is up to college coaches to figure out if you're an elite player or you're just a good player destroying inferior competition.
That's why offers come later in football and, with the exception of Texas, most teams aren't out there pushing 20+ commitments before summer rolls around. Summer time, after kids go to camps and coaches get their eyeballs on them is when the offers start to come. You see there are a handful of kids that you can see on their sophomore and junior tape and just offer outright.
The bulk you watch their junior film, the first time most truly explode on the film, and then you want to see them in person. How they move, how fluid their change of direction is and how they handle competition against other kids you're recruiting.
That's the school end.
On the players end you meet your position coaches a little on some unofficial gameday visits. You spend some time with them on junior days but the recruiting process doesn't rev up big time until that same senior summer. That's when you really start seeing your name in the rankings, the offers start pouring in and you figure out where you stand with schools. It is a short process, you want information you want to look and see and you want to figure out exactly how high you're going to climb.
All in all I'm not a fan of the early period. Do your job better when it comes to keeping kids in the boat.
Lastly, in situations like the one Staples brought up regarding South Carolina and the one we referenced yesterday involving Junior Gnonkonde of Georgia Tech; blame the school, not the system. That school should have never offered Jonathan Davis, period. Never should have given him an offer. They screwed that up. Paul Johnson should have never left Gnonkonde stay committed if he couldn't get him into school. In both instances the responsibility lies on the school to be aware of the situation, a fluid situation, and let the kids and their families know what's going on so they can make other arrangements.
Before I go all "Felder Out" here, I'll just remind folks to be on their best behavior tomorrow with respect to recruits. I'm sniping folks all day and if you see unruly fan behavior let me know. I'll put it up for the world to see. Apparently last night's Jeremy Liggins LSU pick didn't sit well with some Ole Miss fans and me calling them out, um, well sat even worse.