Who benefits from early signing day?

By DARRYL MAXIE / dmaxie@ajc.com

ACC coaches, like most of their counterparts nationally, came out this week in favor an early signing day for college football. But who would it really benefit?

Those who spin it in the most favorable light say it would take pressure off players who have made commitments. If the early signing day is early enough — say, before their senior season begins — they might even be able to play their last year free from the hounding phone calls, the fan hype, etc., because they’d already be in a binding agreement.

That may be. Or, more likely, kids who otherwise would’ve had their senior seasons to make up their minds about where to go to college would be hounded to make that decision even earlier.

Let’s face it: The real benefit isn’t for the player; it’s for the schools that recruit them. Those who say an early signing day would simplify the final weeks of recruiting … simplify it for whom? Coaches who are of mature minds, established and financially set for life in most cases, don’t like the idea of being at the mercy of a sudden de-committing. They would prefer to lock up their commitments and zero in on the truly uncommitted.

Between the time a guy commits to a school and the time he signs on the line that is dotted, only bad things can happen, from that school’s perspective. And most football coaches aren’t keen on the idea of playing defense the whole time, which is what the interim between commitment and signing day really is: You’re babysitting, praying nothing goes amiss before that signed letter-of-intent gets faxed in. And coaches are much better equipped to put a foot in a player’s backside than they are to babysit.

As it is, kids are pressured to make non-binding commitments that lead to the babysitting period. We want to know which way a kid is leaning, until they lean far enough to topple over and make a choice. At least as it stands now, they then have plenty of time to sit back and reflect on whether they’ve chosen wisely. And if, in the months of maturing that follow, they should decide to change their minds, shouldn’t the rules err on their side?

Some say early signing day would give kids more security. But if that college coach gets fired, or lands a more lucrative offer elsewhere, that kid is more stuck than ever if he signs early.

I’m not sure signing day shouldn’t be pushed back. All an early signing day does is shift more pressure on kids, not less. How is that a good thing?

16 comments Add your comment


May 15th, 2009
1:27 pm

The NCAA is among the most corrupt organizations in the world. They take the hard work of the poorest (albeit talented) kids in the U.S.A. and pilfer it for every dime they can scrounge. God help the athlete that is injured before he can earn a legal paycheck with his talents, because the NCAA sure as hell won’t. Instead, the will pass draconian rules that fatten their purse at the expense of the unpaid.


May 15th, 2009
1:55 pm

“unpaid”??? How much is a college degree going for these days?


May 15th, 2009
1:59 pm

No change nedded. I do beleive the kids should commit to a SCHOOL because of the educatation. An NFL check is no sure thing, I would hate to play for a coach I don’t like either.


May 15th, 2009
2:04 pm

Pi$$, if you’re going to discuss educational value, learn to spell, okay.


May 15th, 2009
2:20 pm

If I were a coach I’d be in favor of an early signing day too. The students that are solidly committed could sign early and not be subject to the constant badgering from coaches trying to turn them. Some kids love the attention and drama of NSD with the three hat monte and the posse in tow, but some kids know where the want to go in July. Let those kids sign and be left alone to enjoy their senior year.
Now, I would like to see some NCAA legislation that frees up an early signee if the head coach, not a position coach, leaves.


May 15th, 2009
4:04 pm

jjbamaman No words on the article or just being the spelling cops? I guess that is because bama signs 50 kids a year and then sees who can actually make it into school.


May 15th, 2009
8:31 pm

We are doing an injustice to these high school kids, because they become heroes way too soon. I predict many of these early “great players” will not pan out and this is really bad for the kid. The public knows too much about recruiting too soon. Some of these kids are being called All Americans as soph. and juniors. Why are we doing this??????

[...] the hurry? Jump to Comments The AJ-C’s Darryl Maxie does a nice job of summarizing the negatives to an early signing day.  Not surprisingly, they all seem to fall on the backs of the [...]


May 16th, 2009
9:12 am

The only way I could support an early signing period is if there was a provision added that would allow recruits to re-sign with another program ( without penalty ) should a coach bolt to another program…or if that coach gets fired.


May 16th, 2009
9:35 am

I think that students who know where they are going should have the option of signing with the school of their choice. I also think that if a coach leaves the kid should automatically be allowed to decommit if they so choose


May 16th, 2009
9:35 am

An early signing period should be made available for those mature enough, and not caught up in the theatrics of picking a hat out of a bag. I agree with Coach Swinney that an August period would be appropriate for early signees. And, like many other posters, I agree that kids should be able to bail without penalty if a head coach decides to bolt for another job.


May 16th, 2009
10:55 am


May 16th, 2009
11:58 am

Jjbamaman, if you’re going to badger someone for a legit typing error and crown yourself spelling and grammar police then I would suggest you proof read your own sentence. If you end a sentence in a question don’t you need a question mark instead of a period? Now as for the article, keep the decision making for signing in the kids senor year. The time between verbal commitment and signing is for the kids to reflect on the choice and to make sure they are certain they made the right choice. Coaches leaving, schools getting caught up in NCAA investigations , or any other situations out of the students hands that would affect his opportunities, is a prime example of why a “babysitting “ period should remain in place. Kids can still declare their choice in their junior year, but legal signing should remain as close to high school graduation as possible. It’s the coach’s responsibility to ensure he has done what is needed to keep the student true to his verbal commitment. On the subject of “unpaid”, I agree a college scholarship is more money than they would ever earn prior to college on their own. I believe the trade off is more than fair for the student.


May 17th, 2009
6:50 am

These kids have never made any decisions in their life of any consequence. It is kid of laughable to call a 17 or 18 year old kid mature when reality is these kids change their minds all the time about a lot of things going on in their life. We all know they are going to get courted like crazy and yes even lied to by some of these coaches. To me to keep the playing field fair these kids should have a right to know who will be the coach they will be playing for the next year when they sign at the beginning of FEB. This extra time will also reveal what other kids are being recruited at their same position. If the kids don’t want to be bothered they can commit and quit taking calls from other schools which in the end is all you have to offer them to not be bothered. An early signing period will foster more kids becoming cancers on teams and more transferring to other schools at a later date. Reality is a kid who really wants to go to a school rarely gets swayed anyway so this is a moot point. There are only a handful of commits that ever switch so why is it a big deal? Somebody should be looking out for the kids interests signing in FEB is the right thing to do.


May 17th, 2009
12:09 pm

Leave it alone. Signing Day has become a huge event that gives the sport extra publicity.

GA Buckeye

May 18th, 2009
3:51 pm

First of all, there is no way, the NCAA will be able hold these well-intentioned coaches and recruiters from identifying these prospects earlier and earlier. They can legislate more ‘no contact’ rules, but there are clever ways around it, that are within the rules.

These kids are feeling pressure from these coaches/recruiters early and most of these top prospects commit prior to their Senior seasons to get the process over and done with, because it becomes almost unbearable. Flattering, yes, but unbearable nonetheless. Some have identified what they believe is the best college fit for them.

However, what I would like to see legislated is moving the timing up for “Official visits” to include the Semester prior to the prospect’s Senior sport season. Well, for football, that would mean Spring semester of their Junior year. When many of these prospects commit before their Senior year season, there is a tremendous amount of pressure applied by the University they chose to cancel all the other Official visits the prospect is entitled. The University that was chosen fears their “offer might get unhooked”. This deprives the prospect of an opportunity to get more educated on their top prospective schools.

Moving the timing up of the Offical visits gives the prospect an opportunity to get their 5 visits funded by the recruiting Universities, and they can make a more informed decision before the start of their Senior year. This gives some of the advantage back to the prospect, because now a University has to be committed earlier and they have to be a lot more sure about a prospect, in the event of a sub-par Senior year or a significant injury.

I also like the idea of an “escape clause” for prospects when the Coach leaves. We promote all the time that you should not choose a school based on the coach, but let’s face it, these are impressionable 16, 17 and 18 year olds and they are making their decisions, in part, on the sell job done by the Assistant and Head Coaches. Right or wrong, let’s give these kids some options to change a life-changing decision, when the criteria they used to make the decision changes.