Early signing period needed for football

dshirley@macon.comMay 31, 2014 

The SEC’s coaches debated a possible early signing period for college football once again this week at the conference’s annual meetings in Destin, Florida.

Or did they?

The conference and its coaches have made it clear they want no part of an early signing period, despite other conferences, including the ACC, saying they’re all for the idea and pushing the debate forward. So this week, the SEC came up with a “proposal” in the loosest sense of the word.

The conference again said it doesn’t want another signing period for football, but if one comes about, it wants it to be the Monday after Thanksgiving, while adding the caveat that players who sign early must not have taken an official visit to that school. That’s like a politician pushing back against a bill but then sliding in a provision to try to make sure it bogs things down and kills the bill in case it moves forward at all.

That was the wrong move by the SEC.

College football needs an early signing period, and it makes no sense for the SEC to try to derail the issue.

0ther college sports have more than one signing period, so why not football? Opponents of the idea say it’s to keep from moving the recruiting clock earlier in the players’ high school careers. OK, but why is that an issue for football and not the other sports?

Just keep the start of the recruiting cycle the same and add the new period for the players who want to sign early and get their decision out of the way before their senior seasons.

Another reason the SEC coaches used for keeping one signing period is to avoid recruiting during the summer (the ACC’s coaches proposed an August signing period). Most of the summer is spent in camps and looking for new talent anyway, so an earlier period wouldn’t really change that.

The ACC’s plan is the one to use, and it benefits the people who should be the focus of this entire debate: the players.

High school players who want to sign before their senior seasons begin should be able to do that, allowing them to enjoy the season without the constant barrage of letters, phone calls, texts, etc., from coaches. Even more ridiculous is the scrutiny from fans on social media sites and chat sites as they follow the every move of teenagers trying to make the biggest decision of their lives. That has to be exhausting for the players and could be easily avoided.

The players who want to wait and make their decision in February should have that chance to do that, as well. And there would be plenty who would do just that.

Despite the SEC coaches’ feelings about a summer signing period, that also would be the best thing for the coaches. It would allow them to coach the season and focus on their team and concentrate their recruiting efforts away from players who haven’t signed instead of the current setup. Coaches now how to coach the team they have during the season while also having to recruit players they’re interested in getting to join their program. At the same time, they have to constantly recruit even they players who already have committed and keep other programs from swooping in and trying to get them to de-commit.

That’s just silly. There is plenty of pressure on coaches and players already -- too much pressure really -- and an early signing period would help eliminate at least some of that.

And that’s not even really debatable.

Contact Daniel Shirley at 744-4227 or dshirley@macon.com

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