National signing day — as the college football world has come to know it — might look completely different the next time around.
A proposal that would establish a three-day early signing period in mid-December is making its way through the NCAA oversight process, and a final vote on the plan, which appears to have widespread support, could take place as early as April.
UK Coach Mark Stoops, who has lobbied for an early signing period in the past, came out in favor of the NCAA’s proposed mid-December plan during his national signing day news conference Wednesday.
“I would be for that,” Stoops said. “It would clean up a lot and save us a lot of traveling. As I mentioned, I appreciate our staff and our families, our wives. These guys travel around the clock and around the country and spend an awful lot of time away from home, and some of it is just baby-sitting and it’ll clear the air a little bit.
“I don’t see anything wrong with giving guys two options. If you want to get it out of the way and knock it out of the way in December, so be it. … What’s the harm in giving them the opportunity to sign early?”
Two years ago, Stoops was burned during the run-up to national signing day with the loss of several longtime commitments to other schools. The defections put UK’s coaching staff into scramble mode, and the Wildcats ended up adding 11 recruits to their 2015 class after New Year’s Day.
Some of those late additions — such as Josh Allen, Derrick Baity and Chris Westry — worked out splendidly for the Cats, but the time period between Christmas and national signing day has turned into a mad dash for college coaches around the country, with schools trying to flip players from other schools, high school seniors being left in the cold with rescinded scholarship offers and parents trying to keep unwelcome recruiters off of high school campuses.
UK recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow told a story Wednesday about new Wildcats signee Alex King’s mother, who didn’t want her son dealing with other coaches trying to flip his commitment and expressly told a high school coach not to allow King to be pulled from class so he could meet with other colleges.
UK offensive coordinator Eddie Gran locked up seven commitments from the state of Florida in this recruiting cycle. All seven were committed before Christmas, but the Wildcats’ coaching staff had to stay on them for another six weeks as other major colleges tried to sway them away from Kentucky.
Gran said a December signing period would be a “fantastic” addition to the recruiting calendar.
“Then you don’t have people messing with them,” he told the Herald-Leader in late January. “You get down to this area, this time right now and it’s a joke. People start losing some guys and they start going back on some things and that’s not fun. It’s not fun for the kids. It’s miserable for the families. Miserable.”
Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell has been advocating for an early signing period for more than 10 years.
He would like to see a signing period before the start of recruits’ senior seasons — “The earlier you have true, honest communication between coaches and players, the better off the recruiting process is,” he said — but college coaches have balked at the idea of signing kids before they play their final season of high school football.
A proposal that would have established a late-June signing period even earlier in the recruiting cycle was nixed by the NCAA football oversight committee.
“None of us are for that,” Stoops said Wednesday. “I’m not for that.”
So, December is a good start, said Farrell, who pointed out that college coaches and recruits would both get a “put-up-or-shut-up time” several weeks ahead of the traditional national signing day in February, which would still exist under the current proposal.
“If a college doesn’t want a (player who’s committed) and he doesn’t have a letter to sign in that December signing period, it’s going to be pretty evident to him that he’s not part of your plans,” Farrell said. “And that whole, ‘I’m 100-percent committed but I’m taking visits’ thing? That’s out the window.”
Ranking the recruiting classes
The top 2017 football recruiting classes as ranked by Rivals.com:
2. Ohio State
5. Florida State
6. Southern Cal
10. Texas A&M
11. Miami (Fla.)
12. Penn State
13. Notre Dame
16. South Carolina
27. Mississippi State
84. Western Kentucky