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Pelini’s Signing Idea Ignores How Recruits Think

Nebraska head football coach Bo Pelini explained an interesting if not entirely original idea to slow down recruiting to Adam Rittenberg:

Pelini thinks high school players should be able to sign with teams as soon as they receive scholarship offers. If coaches choose to offer scholarships to freshmen and sophomores – an increasingly common tactic – they have to be prepared for those players to sign on for the distant future.

“If somebody has offered a kid, let him sign, it’s over,” Pelini told ESPN.com on Wednesday. “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.”

These ideas are nice, but have a number of problems. The biggest of which is policing offers. To have teeth, Pelini’s idea would need to also outlaw verbal offers. Otherwise coaches will continue to make verbal offers and accept verbal commitments with more prospects than they want before sending written offers to the actual signing class when the school is good and ready. But given the perceived difficulty of policing which school a prospect signed with first, tracking and enforcing a ban on written offers is a non-starter.

But the bigger problem is in how recruits and their families approach the recruiting process. Prospects want as much security as possible as early as possible. Football is fighting “early recruiting” but football’s issues are nothing compared to sports like softball, volleyball, or soccer where coaches sometimes do not just get a commitment from a sophomore but fill up entire classes during a prospect’s sophomore year in high school.

If prospects are allowed to be offered and sign at any time, some school will target freshmen and sophomores in high school and recruiting will be accelerated, not delayed, because some school will be willing to make prospects an offer and sign them early. That will lead other schools to do the same and so on.

Maryland’s Randy Edsall has an idea to combat that as well:

Maryland coach Randy Edsall wants to prevent scholarship offers from being given until the start of a prospect’s senior year in high school.

Combining the two ideas would not eliminate national signing day, it would just move it to the first day schools can send offers.[1] Written offers are already prohibited prior to August 1st of a prospect’s senior year, so Edsall must be talking about verbal offers, which brings back up the issue of enforcement.

Pelini brings up evaluation which is peculiar because right now football coaches have all the way through a prospect’s senior high school football season to evaluate him before signing him to an NLI. It seems highly unlikely that given the push for an early signing period that eliminating the signing periods would mean more evaluation and more considered decisions by either prospects or schools. Unleashing the momentum for signing earlier is likely to result in signing earlier. And having no limit at all will allow that momentum to run the furthest.

Alderson Broaddus University Sports Recruiting.


  1. More likely to be a set date like August or September 1 rather than a different day for each prospect based on when school starts.  ↩

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