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What Early Signing Day Means For Everyone Involved

Year one of early signing day has had it’s negative feedback already

Virginia v Miami Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The NCAA decided that FBS football rules and regulations weren’t complicated and convoluted enough. Their idea to make life easier on student-athletes, coaches, and the media was to add an early signing period before the usual football signing day. Instead of the previously flirted with summer date for early signees, the NCAA chose December 20th-22nd of 2017 for the inaugural early period. There is still the standard signing day in February of 2018 but if you want to sign early you can and both sets count against your 25 scholarships (barring some adjusting from teams) per year.

For the players there are some pros. One would be players can sign before the major winter holiday in the United States, Christmas. If players and their families are looking to sign and keep their phones from ringing off the hook with the constant stress of the recruiting process they can end it and enjoy their holiday break in solace. For the student-athletes looking to graduate in December and become early enrollees- the process now has a day at your local high school for you, too as opposed to the previous anti-climactic process of past seasons.

The negatives for players are many, however. The coaching carousel is on-going and players sign with schools based on the relationships they build with assistant coaches and head coaches alike. As a player, they are dedicating their lives to playing for a coach and the type of program they establish. There have been late exits on the carousel post signing day in February let alone right now in December. In late December there are still FBS head coaching jobs that aren’t yet filled, take Kent State as an example. If you’re a player and your position coach or coordinator leaves after you sign during the early period, that’s a bad situation and the pressure was on you to sign early or lose your spot in a signing class.

For players, it’s also difficult for many to take their five official visits before their winter break. However the coaches have to emphasize that looming issue that the scholarships may all be taken and players will make an uneducated system possibly without even an official visit. Many players are playing basketball or will wrestle in the winter and those seasons start in late October which is still football season in most states. If you make a run into your state title game you can be playing into the second week of December. This leaves players with one or two weeks to make the biggest decision of their young lives, all the while still preparing for high school midterm or final exams and moving on to their winter sports season.

As a football coach, you may wind up in a situation where you sign a player to a school in December and are let go or decide to move on to a higher paying position. This could leave athletic directors to firing head football coaches even earlier during the season. Sean Davidson, a high school football coach and former NAIA coach, told me, “I really dislike it from a coaching standpoint... [coaches] have to be concerned” regarding the possibility of even earlier firings happening every year.

Sean later added, “As a player, what happens if you change your mind?” We can assume the player still has to sit out a year while coaches like Willie Taggart can make promises to complete their contracts and leave after only 361 days. If coaches are to be fired earlier, the evaluation starts even earlier on that decision for A.D.’s. A program like Missouri that started 1-5 could have seen their staff fired and wouldn’t have had the chance to finish the season on a six game winning streak. That means Josh Heupel may not even be the head football coach at UCF if this firing window start opening even earlier.

Mike Gregory, the head football coach at Tampa Catholic High School, discussed this from a college coaches perspective as well. Coach Gregory knows a thing or two about the recruiting process having coached the NFL’s Curtis Riley and Chaz Green, as well as notable college players like Nate Craig-Myers, Devan Barrett, and Christian Green. Coach Gregory’s feelings were that the FBS schools can now focus their last month of recruiting build-up on the spots that remain, and not waste time and resources on players that were signing else where anyway. He added, “Those schools at the FCS level and below have a few weeks of aggressively recruiting players who didn’t sign with an FBS school in December.” Which is a great point; the players that were snubbed by FBS schools in December will open their reality to being an FCS player, and kids with FCS dreams can now focus on D2 and NAIA schools before their admissions spots and percentages of scholarships are all filled up.

Hakeem Dickson, who covers the UCF Knights football program, commented on the issue from a media standpoint. Hakeem said, “While most coaches are getting their teams ready for the [bowl] game we are also covering and pre evaluating the games putting us in a time crunch to cover both.” Beat writers and bloggers dedicate a lot of their time to recruiting. During the old system reporters would spend the entire signing day giving us updates and player profiles. These reporters will now have to do something like this twice and that puts a crunch on time and quality of coverage when you’re also covering the team in a bowl game or possibly even the college football playoff.

The weekend of December 15th-17th is a big weekend for the Miami Hurricanes 2018 recruiting class. The Hurricanes will have eighteen of their twenty-one commitments on campus over the weekend with the intent of signing most during the early signing window. StateOfTheU’s Stefan Adams compiled a list of who will and won’t be on campus this weekend for you, and having the class locked up will be a big deal for Mark Richt as Miami faces the Wisconsin Badgers in the Orange Bowl December 30th of 2017. As Coach Richt prepares the ‘Canes for the bowl game, he also has to host his biggest recruiting weekend of the year, sign his 2018 class, hire his 10th assistant coach, and handle his personal life during the hectic holiday season.