In an interview with ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg released Wednesday afternoon, Nebraska head football coach Bo Pelini suggested that putting an end to national signing day would lead to a slower, more-efficient and ultimately better recruiting process.
In Pelini's mind, a high school prospect should be able to sign an offer as soon as it is given to him by a college program. This would eliminate the problem of over-extension, whereby programs offer a scholarship to more players than they could realistically sign and dilute the process for teams that are genuinely pursuing someone.
Here are Pelini's direct quotes from the story:
If somebody has offered a kid, let him sign, it's over. That will stop some of the things that are happening—people just throwing out offers, some of them with really no intention of taking a kid.
Make [the offer] mean something. People will be like, 'Whoa, I've got to take this kid now.' It will slow things down for the kids, for the institutions. There will be less mistakes...Why does there have to be one specific day? And it will get rid of some of the stuff that goes on, kids pulling the hats and so forth.
Things would slow down dramatically. Some of these kids get 60 offers. Some of these people don't even know who a kid is. The whole thing gets watered down. There's no way some [team] can take that many guys.
Pelini's suggestions are actually quite sound.
Recruiting has taken on a life of its own this past half-decade or so, and things like national signing day—things that have become less substance and more spectacle—only add to the system's problems.
It's unfair for a school such as Alabama—hypothetically—to offer 300 scholarships at the start of a cycle. Because most prospects are enamored with the Crimson Tide and want to play for a program with such a storied tradition, they might hold off on their recruitment from other schools and plan on signing with the Tide on NSD.
This is a problem because Alabama, like every other school, can only hand out a fixed number of scholarships each year. And because they have the power to rescind the scholarship whenever they please—not unlike Tennessee just did to 4-star defensive end Sterling Johnson—they could pull the rug out from under those recruits in the final weeks and screw them out of an available scholarship elsewhere.
Pelini's proposal would eliminate the potential for such an ordeal. It would force schools to be more earnest in their scholarship offers, as any recruit could sign on the spot and be locked in to play for the program that offered him. It is better for both the recruits and the non-blue-blood schools that are chasing them.
This helps explain why college football Twitter came out en masse to support Pelini's comments after they were published:
I absolutely agree w/ Pelini. Make coaches think twice & more about this stuff and try to limit the BS non-committable offers.— Michael Felder (@InTheBleachers) June 4, 2014
I don’t like Bo Pelini’s suggestion to eliminate National Signing Day… I LOVE IT. http://t.co/zzseLjEhV1— Dieter Kurtenbach (@dkurtenbach) June 4, 2014
here’s pelini’s idea on scholarship offers. i’ve been in favor of this for a long time. http://t.co/scVxZ4M04S— Allen Kenney (@BlatantHomerism) June 4, 2014
Bo Pelini's idea of eliminating Signing Day and letting kids sign the minute they get a written offer is a free market, fairly clever idea.— Samuel McKewon (@swmckewonOWH) June 4, 2014
However, Bleacher Report's Michael Felder was also there to remind us how unlikely we are to see such a system. He doesn't think the big-school coaches will ever go for it, since it would mean extra work on their part to scout a player in depth before sending him an offer:
Pelini's idea wouldn't stand. They'll say b/c of pressure on 9th/10th graders but truth is, it's more work for coaches & they hate that.— Michael Felder (@InTheBleachers) June 4, 2014
National signing day is important to the iconography of college football, and the iconography of college football is important to ensuring the sport stays excessively profitable.
A cynical mind might say the NCAA cares more about that than it does about making the system more lucid, straightforward and fair.
But isn't it still fun to dream?
Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT