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Early Signing Period: I Have My Own Ideas

Needless to say, not everyone is thrilled with idea of there being an early signing period for recruits in college football.  The idea of an early signing period is that it will allow some players to end the process early, and will cut down on the chaos that ensues in December and January.  The criticism is that and "early" signing period will just move the chaos to a few months earlier.

There is much that is correct about the criticism, but I have a proposal for an early signing period that I think will alleviate some of the chaos:


  1. Put strict limits on how many players a school can sign during the early signing period.  Make it 10.  Or 8.  Or something.  If the primary criticism of an early signing period is that recruits will be pressured by schools to make decisions before they are ready, making this rule will help matters.  If schools can only take a fairly small number of binding commitments during the early signing period, the incentive is no longer there to pressure kids into making premature decisions.  It would also give a kid an out if he doesn't want to sign at that time.  He can say, "No thanks coach, let someone else sign that day."
  2. Place the early signing period towards the end of the summer, before the players' senior season starts.  It would be a bad idea to place the signing period in the middle of the season.  It would be a distraction for the coaches, for the high school players, for their high school coaches, and for the team.  It is better for college football that national signing day is after the season, and it would be better for college football if an early signing period, if any, was before the football season.
  3. Players and teams alike can back out of the commitment if there is a head coaching change.  Yes, I know you are supposed to commit to the team, not to the coach, but when I took the job I have now, I committed to my boss, not to my office building.  Allow players to back out, and make it reciprocal.  Don't force a coach to live with the decisions of his predecessor if he doesn't want to.
  4. Players who are seriously injured during their senior seasons can immediately apply to be placed on a medical scholarship.  On another world, at another time, I explained medical scholarships here. "With a medical scholarship, a player is removed from the roster and no longer counts against the 85 player maximum, but retains his scholarship," I said.  If one of the "dangers" of an early signing period is that a school could get stuck with an injured player, alleviate the problem by unsticking them.  It's not that hard.
These simple rules, I think, will make an early signing period both useful (in that it will cut down on the chaos that ensues every December and January) and safe (in that it won't increase the exploitation on athletes).  Safeguards will be in place so that only those who are truly certain of their ultimate destination will be in the system by then, and the whole process is reversible in the most difficult of circumstances.

I doubt it will ever happen, at least not soon, and I don't think it's necessary, but the problems with an unlimited early signing period can be avoided with a little imagination and ingenuity.