10 Things to Change about College Football: Early Signing Period

Feb. 1, 2012; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly speaks at a press conference for national signing day at the Guglielmnio Athletics Complex. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-US PRESSWIRE

This week I continue my 10 part piece on things I would like to see changed in college football. For reference, here are the previous articles:

The BCS

The Bowl System

Conference Affiliation of Officials

Overtime Rules

For this installment, I am going to tackle an early signing period for recruits.

Background:

Currently, prospective college football players can sign their National Letter of Intent (LOI) starting the first Wednesday of February and have until May 31st to do so. That Wednesday has become an unofficial holiday for college football fanatics and is commonly referred to as National Signing Day (NSD). This is the only signing period allowed for football (outside of the Junior College transfers in December/January).

Basketball has had an early signing period in November (prior to most high school seasons starting) for about three decades. The rule was primarily instituted to allow players a chance to enjoy their senior year without the constant barrage of phone calls from recruiters.

For reference, here are the signing periods for NCAA sports for 2012-13:

Sport

Initial Signing Date

Final Signing Date

Basketball (Early Period)

November 14, 2012

November 21, 2012

Basketball (Regular Period)

April 17, 2013

May 15, 2013

Football (Midyear JC Transfer)

December 19, 2012

January 15, 2013

Football (Regular Period)

February 6, 2013

April 1, 2013

Field Hockey, Soccer, Track and Field, Cross Country, Men's Water Polo

February 6, 2013

August 1, 2013

All Other Sports (Early Period)

November 14, 2012

November 21, 2012

All Other Sports (Regular Period)

April 17, 2013

August 1, 2013

Changes:

There have been discussions, proposals and a general call-to-arms by the media for instituting an early signing period for college football over the past few years.

Quite simply, the NCAA needs to institute an early signing period for college football.

I propose that the early signing period begins with the first Wednesday in August and runs through the second Wednesday in August. This timing allows players to sign prior to most (if not all) high school seasons starting.

The way I see it, it allows for a few great benefits to players including allowing the players to avoid 6 months of recruiting harassment from coaches (not to mention media and fans) and ensures their offer will not be pulled due to injury. An early signing period would also help to curb the oversigning/grey-shirting epidemic that is so prevalent in today's game.

In order to make the early signing period effective, the NCAA will have to allow official visits during a recruit's junior year of high school but still only be allowed 5 total. If a recruit uses one official visit as a Junior and signs during the early period, they should then be allowed to take one additional official visit to the school they signed with during their senior year. Currently, recruits are only allowed to visit an institution once.

By instituting an early signing period like basketball already enjoys, the NCAA could actually help its future student athletes. There is simply no compelling reason not to have one other than many coaches are against the idea.

Related Reading:

NCAA's release on football recruiting and recruiting in general

Yahoo's breakdown of recruiting rules

National Letter of Intent Website

Recruiting-101.com Website

Active.com's Guide to College Football Recruiting

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