Why I had a change of heart on the early signing period

In Life, in Love, and in Football, we should all be free to change our minds. And so I have had a change of heart about college football’s early signing period, the grand experiment that starts on Wednesday and ends on Friday.

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At first I thought it was a good thing for all of those guys who are completely sure where they want to go to school and want to end the exhaustive recruiting process. I also thought it was good for schools not to have to spend money to “baby sit” committed players in January because they were afraid another school would flip them at the last minute.

Now both of those reasons are still valid. But based on what I’m reading and hearing, the negatives of this process are going to outweigh the positives. We’ll find out starting on Wednesday but here are five things I don’t like: [membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

1—Coaches who are supposed to be getting their teams ready for a bowl game or a playoff game are concerned about recruiting: Georgia’s Kirby Smart had his pre-Rose Bowl press conference on Monday in Athens. It’s the biggest game of Smart’s brief career as a head coach and his team deserves 100 percent of his attention. It is also the biggest football game Georgia has played since the Sugar Bowl after the 1982 season when the Bulldogs played Penn State for the national championship.

Recruiting is a necessary process. It is the lifeblood of the program. But at this point on the calendar it looks like an intruder. SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey agrees.

“I’m not sure we’re doing the best thing to allow our football programs to do their normal work,” said Sankey. “We’ve got coaches flying around when they need to prepare their teams for bowls and for the playoffs.”

2—Players will be pressured to sign this week even if they want to wait until February: Very simple. The coach says to the player: “You are committed to us and we’re holding a scholarship for you. If you don’t sign, we’re going to go to the next guy on our list at your position. If you wait until February there may not be a place for you.”

If a kid is a superstar he can wait. If he’s not, the pressure is on. In that case players don’t have all the information they need to make a decision.

3—Coaches who convinced recruits to sign early will leave the staff shortly after the signing period because of a better offer: Because of the early signing period a lot of coaches will agree to stay in place to close out the signing class. The coach will not tell the recruit that he’s had an offer to leave for quite some time and was just waiting until the signing period is over.

“This has happened in the past and it left young people angry and frustrated,” said Sankey.

I think it’s going to happen a bunch this year.

4—Coaches will get players to sign knowing that shortly after signing day they will get fired: The head coach and the assistant coach have made a deal to get the signing class done and then the assistant coach will be let go.

5—The impact of the 10th assistant coach: The situation of assistant coaches leaving shortly after signing day will only be made worse by the fact that schools can now add a 10th full-time on-the-field coach. Those hires can start on Jan. 9, 2018. This will add yet another ripple through the coaching profession with the players having no alternative but to stay.

And let’s don’t use that tired old line that a player signs with the school and not with the coach who sold him on the school. We all know better.

Sankey made it clear that he believes the SEC is going to be successful in football recruiting regardless of the rules.

“First of all, let me make it clear that our coaches are going to recruit in a very focused way and I’m confident they��ll have great success,” said Sankey.

But is this process best for the young people who have to make one of the biggest decisions of their young lives?

“We understand there are some benefits (of the early signing period) for those young people who are firmly committed to their school and want to shut down the recruiting process,” said Sankey. “But the concern is for a whole lot of others we’ve increased the speed of the process and limited the amount of information they have to make that decision.”

My bottom line? When the announcement came about the early signing period I verbally committed to it.

But a wise man, former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese, told me to always be aware of unintended consequences. And in this deal I see a bunch of them. So I’m not going to sign.

“I understand the motivation for this but I’m not sure the tradeoffs are worth it,” said Sankey.