From a coach’s perspective, a player who signs in the fall is one who won’t require the same level of attention over the winter. If a team recruits 10 players during the early period, its staff can focus on 15 or so prospects needed to complete the new class, instead of wondering how many verbal commitments really are solid.
Early signing has drawbacks, too. What happens when a player signs long before graduation, and in the meantime the college coach that made the offer gets fired or hired away? Is the athlete still locked into that team?
That’s critical because players in many, many cases are attracted to a program and its coaching staff, rather than the academic institution they’ll attend.
Academic eligibility could be a factor. How will high school students who haven’t qualified academically be treated under early signing provisions? Not all students achieve the necessary ACT or SAT scores the first time they take the test.
Of course, top-flight academic institutions like Stanford, Notre Dame and Duke have higher admittance standards. Coach Mike Krzyzewski seems to have found a way to make things work at Duke.
In the end, major college football powers are going to recruit the best players regardless of the system. It’s unfathomable that teams like Alabama, Ohio State or Texas might suffer because a player is given the opportunity to sign in the fall.
With this change, the intense recruiting season will start earlier in the year. Maybe an early signing period will also end the charade of college recruiting in which it’s been said that the real persuasion starts once a high school player is committed.
Recruiting college athletes is an evolving system. It wasn’t long ago that coaches recruited without Twitter, blogs or other digital portals that are now part of everyday life. Early signing seems like the next logical step.
Then again, the persuasion of 18-year-old kids by silver-tongued recruiters doesn’t always involve logic.
Tom Lindley is a CNHI sports columnist. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.