ATHENS – The early signing period is annoying for coaches. It takes away the drama from the first Wednesday in February. The early period’s timing is inconvenient and burdensome for nearly all involved.
It’s also working exactly as intended.
There was a reason the SEC was against this. It just may be difficult to remember now, especially in Athens, so a quick refresher: The SEC is the recruiting behemoth nationally, and for years it has had the ability to poach recruits at the last minute from smaller schools and teams in other major conferences.
So other conferences, mainly out of self-interest, pushed the NCAA for the early period, ostensibly to protect recruits but mostly to protect their ability to hold onto its commits – or to be able to react to being poached.
Others involved in the process, whether it was the NCAA or people who truly cared about the welfare of high school players, wanted the early period to prevent the following cases:
- A player gets dumped at the last minute and doesn’t have a place to go.
- A smaller school has a player poached by a bigger school at the last minute and the smaller school isn’t in position to replace him.
That all doesn’t necessarily apply to Georgia, or Alabama or the other major powers. They tend to get who they want, which is why SEC coaches lobbied their commissioner to fight the early signing period. But the SEC was outvoted. So it’s why Nick Saban, among others, has been up in arms about this whole thing.
But Saban, Kirby Smart and the other coaches are adjusting.
And the rest of the country, when the dust settles from all this, may well be happy with the result.
What it all boils down to is the intention of the early signing period is to make sure everything is clean. Every recruit goes where he ultimately wants to go. And when programs do get poached, now they have time to react:
The early signing period allows players and schools who truly are committed to each other to make it official. If a player is committed but doesn’t sign early, then he’s not really committed. And if a player wants to sign but his school tells him to hold off, then that player should realize he needs to use the next seven weeks to examine his option.
Seven weeks, rather than the seven hours available under the old system.
The early signing period allows coaches and players to show their cards. Rather than one big crazy day, there now are two. That’s the way it’s been for basketball for years. Now it’s that way for football, where the month-plus in between signing periods gives a chance for the dominoes to fall more cleanly for everyone involved.
At least that’s the idea. As much of a headache as the workload is for everyone right now, if the early signing period has the intended effect, the NCAA will keep it. The only question is whether the date will move.
The SEC originally proposed the early signing period take place the week after Thanksgiving. Some still believe it should be in August, before the season. Either of those scenarios would remove the headache that is teams working on recruiting at the same time they’re getting ready for bowls.
Kirby Smart and Georgia have had a tough balance the past couple of weeks, but it could be worse. Louisiana Tech, for example, has been running its recruiting war room out of a Texas hotel room because they have a game Wednesday night.
So maybe this isn’t the ideal time. But it appears that the days of a single signing day, the first Wednesday in February as a national holiday, are over. That was fun for a lot of people. But too many others – some jilted recruits and schools – didn’t have it work for them. And they had more votes. Oh well.
There were no fans massing at Georgia’s facility on Wednesday as the Bulldogs reeled in the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class. They may not be there on Feb. 7, because so much of the drama has been taken away. Is there something lost not having that? Maybe.
Given the results, though, one suspects Georgia fans aren’t complaining. They could get used to this.