Coaches continue to call for earlier signing day

HOUSTON — Football coaches love recruiting. What they don't love is baby-sitting recruits for months after they've committed to play for them.

Many wish there was an early signing period so they could lock down recruits in December and leave behind the business of holding their hands to make sure they don't change their minds before it can be made official on Feb. 4.

A proposal for a mid-December signing period was recently voted down by conference commissioners, but the issue is not going away, and many college coaches will campaign for such a change until it happens.

Signing day is on Wednesday, but most of the top recruits have been orally committed to a school for months.

"Really, in May and June and July, people are committing so you don't have to do all that traveling in December if you have them already signed in December," said Buffalo Coach Turner Gill. "And in January, you don't have to go and so-called baby-sit."

Texas Coach Mack Brown says it would take pressure off recruits because they wouldn't have to deal with the visits, calls and letters from schools throughout late December and January if they've already signed.

Brown, who often signs players who graduate high school and enroll in college a semester early, says such a change would be beneficial for those students.

"I think it would be great ... especially for the ones that are coming in January because they could have a special day instead of missing their signing day because they're already enrolled in school," he said.

Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops is a major proponent of an early signing period and says it will be good for everyone involved.

"It would benefit those students, (and) I think it would allow more coaches to be back from the road and be with the current players that are on your team in the early weeks of January working with them," he said. "I think there would be a lot of financial savings for universities as well."

Those savings could come from cutting out the visits coaches must make to ensure the commitments they have aren't waffling on their decisions or worse — being lured away by another school.

While Gill, who turned Buffalo from a laughingstock to Mid-American Conference champion, is a fan of an early signing period, he does have some academic concerns with such a change. He worries that signing players before the fall semester ends could leave universities with a more limited knowledge of what kind of student they are getting.

"There was a little hesitation in doing it because of the academics," he said. "So there are a lot of pluses, and there may be a few minuses just like anything when you make some choices."

Another coach who supports the change but has some concerns about it, is Boise State's Chris Petersen. He said some players might sign before others even have a chance to take their visits. And that could work against coaches such as Petersen, who work in smaller, more isolated markets.

Texas Tech Coach Mike Leach is staunchly opposed to an early signing period. The man who holds a law degree mused that it's difficult to have everything "figured out" at 18 and not need more time for such a major decision.

Leach also says it would put a strain on his coaching staff if they had to recruit all summer and that it would cut into the already limited time they have with their families.

In addition, "I think it takes away from the season," he said. "I think that you have recruiting so that you can play games and, if you're going to go cloud that with an early signing period, it takes away from the game. It's pretty good the way it is now."