Every February, the strange saga of flipping occurs in college football's world of recruiting.
One minute a prospect is committed to one school, the next minute he's signed with another school. It's frustrating for fans and obviously frustrating for head coaches—unless that coach is the one who gets a prospect to flip to his own school, of course.
One way to get around this is to prohibit committed prospects from taking visits to other schools once they have committed to a school—it makes sense on paper. Shouldn't someone honor his commitment to a school?
But the only way that would hold up is if the prospect had signed his financial paperwork, including his letter of intent, and enrolled in that school. Even then, that prospect could still transfer to another school if he was released from his scholarship, but depending on what school he transferred to, he may have to burn one year of eligibility without playing football.
In rare instances, the NCAA waives a one-year sit-out penalty if a student-athlete transfers to another FBS school; most student-athletes transfer to an FCS school to avoid that one-year penalty.
The very problem of flipping hurts schools, especially as signing day—the first day a prospect can usually sign with a school—looms closer. A school that was counting on a prospect to honor his commitment and fill the school's positional needs may find itself empty-handed on signing day.
So if the NCAA enacted a rule that prevented prospects from taking visits to other schools after committing to a school, would this help? Probably not.
One of the reasons prospects flip is because the head coach of the school he committed to has bailed to go coach at another school. If an adult can't honor his commitment to a school, how can we expect a teenager to honor his commitment?
But the real culprit in all of this is from within the NCAA's own rulebook: a prospect may not take any official visits to a school prior to September 1 of his senior year.
Official visits differ from unofficial visits—on official visits, the prospect's travel expenses are paid for by the school, whereas on an unofficial visit, the prospect's expenses are paid for by his family.
A prospect may commit to a school while he is in middle school or high school, but what happens when he is in his junior year of high school, committed to a school, but hasn't been able to afford to take a visit to a school that's a good distance from his home?
Until September 1 rolls around in his senior year, unless his family can afford to fly him across the country, he's not able to take visits at schools a good distance from his home.
And that's why we see so many flips in the few months leading up to signing day in February. Prospects who have been committed to schools for a long time find themselves in a position to visit other schools without having to incur expenses.
Being treated like royalty at a school makes a big impression on a prospect, especially since some of these kids have never flown in an airplane before. Or dined at a real nice restaurant. Flips are inevitable.
The NCAA's reasoning for official visits is clear—all schools should get an opportunity to show their campuses to a prospect. It's up to that prospect to decide whether or not that school is one of the five schools he may choose among his allowed official visits.
While the NCAA has taken a lot of heat for what many perceive as heavy-handed enforcement of rules, in this case, the NCAA appears to have the student-athlete's best interest at heart.
The NCAA should never prevent recruits from taking visits to other schools once they've committed to a school—teenagers have short attention spans.
But the NCAA can make their rules on official visits better—for both the student-athlete and the school—by changing the date of when student-athletes can take their official visits. A better starting date for official visits would be July 1 of the summer preceding a student-athlete's senior year—it's only three months but what a difference that makes.
Student-athletes won't risk missing school if they can take their officials over the summer. A summer official visit will also reduce the risk of a prospect flipping in the late fall/winter, when most official visits currently take place and cause a committed prospect to waver on his commitment.
Changing the start date of official visits is an easy fix and one that would benefit both the student-athletes and the schools.