Dienhart: It's time the NCAA implements an early signing period

Dienhart: It's time the NCAA implements an early signing period

The NCAA is considering an early signing period. And it’s about time one is implemented.

An early signing period has existed for every collegiate sport except for football. Why has football been slow to embrace an early period? It’s basically because the bigger programs want to be able to poach players committed to other schools late in the process. It’s the big fish feeding on the small fish.

Let’s walk through an example. Say Florida loses a committed player to Tennessee days before Signing Day – it happens all the time. Florida turns around and flips a player who previously committed to, say, Kentucky, leaving the Wildcats scrambling to fill a suddenly open slot.

Florida gets what it wants. Kentucky is left holding the bag and scrambling.

Is it fair? No. But, it’s the circle of life when it comes to recruiting. The big boys get what the big boys want. The lesser programs too often see the bigger programs continue to recruit players committed to them. Those bigger programs may not want to offer a kid a scholarship in September or October, thinking it can do better.

Meanwhile, the kid commits to the lesser programl. Then, the bigger prigram loses a recruiting battle in late January and suddenly needs to fill a spot in its recruiting class, so it offers the kid committed to the lesser priogram.

And the young man bolts.

But if this new early signing period is passed, those lesser schools can sew up a recruit and not have to worry about his leaving for a bigger school late in the recruiting process. And the players should still put as much importance on the recruiting process and the decisions as they do now, if not even more. If they’re not ready to sign, then don’t sign until later.

If passed, the new early signing period would go into effect for the 2017-18 school year.

“The working group did a deep dive on recruiting from beginning to end, and I think what we came up with as a proposal is both student-athlete-friendly and coach- and staff-friendly,” said Bob Bowlsby, chair of the Football Oversight Committee and commissioner of the Big 12 Conference. “We hit a sweet spot.”

According to NCAA.com, the proposal would make accommodations for two, 72-hour early signing periods beginning on the last Wednesday in June and in mid-December. The December date is also the initial time junior college players can sign a National Letter of Intent.

Because the Division I Collegiate Commissioners Association provides governance oversight for the National Letter of Intent program, the council will ask the commissioners’ association to adopt the changes to the signing periods for Division I football.

American Football Coaches Association executive director of the Todd Berry serves on the Football Oversight Committee. And he said the committee has analyzed the impact of an early signing period.

“The group has identified some great proposals that will continue to be vetted moving forward. It is a perfect starting point in getting these matters resolved,” Berry said. “Our student-athletes have asked for an earlier access point, and as coaches we are respectful of their desire for that. This concept of an earlier time frame in conjunction with our camps makes great sense. Our first filter in making any of these decisions is whether or not it is good for the student-athletes.”

Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer

About Tom Dienhart: BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, and send him questions to his weekly mailbag.


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