True Commitment: Why College Football Needs an Early Signing Period

Dan ScofieldAnalyst IFebruary 9, 2010

Almost every spring, the idea of an early signing period comes up in annual spring conference meetings. And almost every spring, this same idea is praised, recommended, and encouraged by most head coaches across the nation.

According to a USA Today story, a 2009 proposal for this early signing period was approved by 73 percent of BCS Subdivision head coaches. However, it was quickly shot down after athletic directors made their opposition to the proposal known loud and clear.

With the support of so many coaching staffs and the majority of the public, the question still remains: Why is there no early signing period in college football?

College basketball seems to have perfected this system. In early November, players are able to sign with their respective programs. If they are still undecided, they have the option of signing at a later time in April.

What college basketball presents to its recruits are options. These options lead to less stress (for both the players and recruiters), fewer question marks, and minimize unnecessary "recruiting drama."

For example, take former South Carolina commitment Jonathon Davis.

Verbally committed to the Gamecocks and assistant coach Ron Cooper, Davis' scholarship was pulled in January 2009 after Cooper left the program for a job at LSU.

Steve Spurrier's staff thought twice about Davis' offer and decided to take a different route, leaving him out to dry with only a few weeks left before National Signing Day.

Scrambling for an offer with virtually no time left to build relationships with any staff, Davis frantically signed with Central Florida.

This past year, 26 of the top 50 recruits on Rivals made their decisions before Dec. 15. With no option of signing early with their schools, many of them either took unofficial or official visits to schools or even flipped their verbals in favor of a rival team.

An early signing day, preferably in December, would instill values that seem to have been lost on the recruiting trail: responsibility, honesty, and true commitment.

From the recruits' standpoint, this option would also allow those who know where they want to play football and attend school to get the process out of the way and enjoy their final year of high school.

If the recruits are committed to their schools, they should be allowed to take their name off the boards of other programs around the nation (ahem, Urban Meyer ) and focus on finishing up the best years of their lives.

In regards to coaching staffs, getting early signatures would give them a better idea of where to focus their attention going into the fall. Say a staff has 20 offers receives eight signatures in the summer.

They then have the opportunity to focus on securing 12 more players from a smaller pool of recruits, while at the same time, saving money, time, and most importantly, energy.

The main reason for the early signing period being rejected in college football is coaching turnover. Athletic directors feel as if a December signing period would conflict with the annual departing of coaches in December.

What's to say a recruit can't be let out of his early letter of intent when a change in a coaching staff occurs? In this select situation, a player would simply be freed of his commitment and put back into the regular-decision pool.

The numbers don't lie. College football recruiting is changing year by year. With each passing season, the number of earlier commitments climb.

Now that the recruiting game is making changes, it's time for the NCAA to make some as well.