Jon Solomon of AL.com has an extensive look at the debate surrounding an early signing period for football. Currently high school football players may not sign an NLI or scholarship offer until February of their senior year. This has lead to a secondary recruiting market where commitment lists fill up then are thrown out the window as coaches go after other schools’ recruits and the definition of a “commitment” becomes very fluid. An early signing period is designed to end the recruiting process earlier, before this mayhem.
I am not a supporter of more or earlier NLI signing periods, but one condition being tossed around to limit players signing early is particlarly ill-conceived:
Georgia coach Mark Richt supports an early signing period in December if those signees don’t take official visits during the season. “If a kid grows up knowing he wants to be a Bulldog, let him sign early and let him have an official visit afterward,” Richt said.
For the player who grew up supporting a school and is sure he wants to go there, this idea works. But they will not be the only players who want to sign early.
Coaches do not want to babysit players, so as many as possible will be pushed to sign early. If that means no official visits, coaches will try and discourage or prevent official visits. It means more pressure on prospects to make quicker decisions with less information. It also favors wealthier prospects who can afford to attend camps and take unofficial visits.
If the official visit has fallen out of favor, as Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald suggests, this could be an opportunity to breathe life back into them. Allow official visits earlier and only allow prospects to sign early if they have taken all five or maybe even as few as three of their official visits.
That would limit the early signing period to players who by some objective measure have finished the recruiting process. It woud accelerate the recruiting process, but would at least require prospects to consider their options, look at different schools, and be more sure of their decision before they sign a binding NLI even earlier.