Once again, I’m reminded that college football desperately needs an early signing period. It’s gotten to the point where high school athletes have what appears to be total control in the process when it should be the other way around. Huge college programs are at the mercy of 17- and 18-year-olds that can change their minds as quickly as they send a text message.
Just last week, two major Georgia high school football talents had a change of heart from earlier decisions: Gainesville wide receiver Tai-ler Jones said yes to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and backed off his previous commitment to Stanford, and Lowndes offensive lineman Ed Christian gave a new verbal commitment to Auburn and backed off his earlier declaration to Florida State.
Just to be clear, these players aren’t cheating the system. They are by no means bound to a verbal commitment. The only commitment that counts is when high school football players put pen to paper on National Signing Day in February. Before Signing Day 2010, it is a given that more of the top high school players in the country will have a change of heart and switch their verbal commitment, in some cases more than once.
Players like Jones and Christian are standout athletes of the caliber that every school would love to attract to their program, so more power to them. Every player could only wish to be fortunate enough to have so many big-name colleges knocking at their door.
Yet I have to believe there is a much more efficient model to follow with regards to the high school football recruiting process. However, this is probably a proposal that isn’t going anywhere any time soon since the idea was voted down by conference commissioners earlier this year, despite the support of more than 70 percent of major college football coaches.
My idea of making the system more functional wouldn’t amount to a major overhaul, but instead more of a tweak to the current system. Why not allow an early signing day for players in early August before these highly-touted players start their senior season?
It happens in other major college sports.
At the end of summer on one set date, let these schools sign a maximum of 10 or 12 players that are already dead set on where they want to play. Let them clear the air so they can focus on their final season of high school football. It’s only fair for a player to get to avoid the circus known as college recruiting if they know what school they want to attend.
A proposal such as this would be beneficial to schools such as Georgia, Texas, Florida and Ohio State, which are well known for building a large number of verbal commitments early for the next year’s class.
“My stance is that I would love to see the early signing day,” said Gainesville coach Bruce Miller, who already has four players on his roster verbally committed to Division I schools. “I just think it takes a lot of heat off of the kids.”
There could also be a couple of provisions written in to allow for players to be able to back out of an early signing with a school, such as a change in coaching staff where the player signs, or NCAA sanctions placed on a program that impact the number of scholarships available after the player has already signed early but before the standard National Signing Day in the winter.
Players that don’t sign on the early signing day could still take visits to campuses during the fall of their senior season to scope out which program fits best. They could verbally commit, decommit and commit again as many times as they like before the National Signing Day.
However, I think the positives of an early signing day considerably outweigh any cons that may be on the table.
Bill Murphy is a sports reporter for The Times. Contact him at email@example.com.