ATHENS — Barring a late snag, an early signing period is finally coming to college football, after years of the SEC and its coaches — like Georgia coach Kirby Smart — fighting against one.
It came Friday amid several far-reaching pieces of legislation approved by the NCAA Division I council. Starting this year, players will be able to sign in December rather than wait until the traditional first Wednesday in February.
Smart expressed skepticism about an early signing period last October, saying the process was already “rushed,” adding: “I’m a big proponent of if it’s not broke don’t try to fix it.”
But on Saturday, with it now seemingly inevitable, Smart merely analyzed the change it will have on the recruiting process. Especially in the months before signing day.
“Having not ever had to deal with that, it’s going to be a big change for everybody,” Smart said.
The biggest change being that there will be less babysitting (to use the coaches’ term) of committed prospects, because they’ll be signed. But there won’t be any reduced time or financial expenditure on recruiting overall.
“People think it’s going to cut down on costs. Well, you’re not going to spend less, you’re just going to go see someone else,” Smart said. “You’re going to go see the last 10 guys to get. You’re going to go see the next 2019 or 2020 kid more. You’re going to do something in that time. But you’re not going to go what we call babysit a recruit and just go see him over and over. So I think that’s how it’ll affect it. But it’ll speed up the process on other kids. Because you’re going to go see them more.”
The new legislation also includes the ability for teams, starting next January, to hire a 10th full-time assistant. Smart, like basically every coach, is in favor of that.
But his most strident criticism remains the legislation that restricts teams from hiring off-field coaches who have a direct relationship (family or coach) with a prospect. Teams still can hire full-time assistant coaches who have a relationship with a recruit, but not for off-field analyst roles.
“I still stand that it’s hard on the coaching profession to grow coaches and develop coaches like we do in the SEC without the ability to hire high school coaches,” Smart said. “And they’ll still argue, you can still hire them you just can’t hire the ones with prospects. Well, when you sign 25 a year it’s hard not to sign one that may interact with a prospect. It does limit those guys. And that’s the most disappointing thing about that rule.”