DESTIN, Fla. — The SEC has a proposal for an early signing period, even though it still doesn’t want one.
That sums up the peculiar, but perhaps tactically brilliant, stance that the SEC took Wednesday. In the face of “mounting interest” nationally in favor of a football early signing period, the SEC proposed that it be held the Monday after Thanksgiving and that anyone who signs must not have taken an official visit to any school.
But the conference still prefers keeping the first Wednesday in February as the lone signing day.
“Our first step would be retain the current model,” SEC commissioner Mike Slive said. “And if it looks like there’s gonna be a debate over an early signing date, then we would bring this one forward.”
Slive warned against a “domino effect” that he said would result in the early signing date becoming the primary one, as it often is in men’s basketball. The SEC doesn’t want that to happen in football because it would move up the recruiting calendar, resulting in heavier recruiting either in the summer or during football season.
“We will continue to encourage our colleagues in the CCA to retain the current model,” Slive said, referring to the Collegiate Commissioners Association, which would vote on the matter next month.
In fact, Slive said he doesn’t know if the early signing period is on the CCA meeting agenda, adding, “I hope it’s not.”
The CCA is a body consisting of the men and women who lead the football-playing conferences in FBS and FCS. Twice before, the CCA has voted down an early signing period, and each time the SEC was against it.
While the SEC is still against it, this time it senses more support nationally for an early signing period.
“We’re not predicting the future. There is an understanding that there is mounting interest in an early signing date,” SEC associate commissioner Greg Sankey said. “And there’s a need to identify a workable model that respects the current recruiting calendar. And I think in many ways it’s worked well, and I think that’s what our coaches would say.”
Many coaches did say just that earlier in the day. They voted 14-0 for the proposal that the SEC quickly adopted. But while the SEC’s official position is still against the early signing period, the opinion of coaches is more divided.
“I’d rather just keep it like we are, but if we did have an early one, that would be OK,” South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier said.
“We’ve been talking about this for years,” Georgia’s Mark Richt said. “Not everybody agrees there oughta be an early signing period. I think when this first started years ago, not many of us were very interested in this. We liked the recruiting calendar the way it is. We think it works fine. We don’t think it’s a problem. But if, in fact, there is going to be an early signing period, if it’s inevitable that there will be one, we were unanimous in this (proposal).”
The stipulation about early signees not taking any official visits is the SEC’s twist on the period. The idea behind that is to make sure that the early signing date is for recruits for whom there is no doubt of where they want to go and to keep recruiting during the season to a minimum.
“We want to coach our players in season,” Richt said.
And the opposition to a signing period in August, which the ACC has proposed, is mainly out of a desire to prevent coaches from spending summer on the road recruiting.
“Some of us would like to have a little sanity in our lives,” Richt said.
“I think where we were in the discussion level (Wednesday) is if there is a national trend to change, we need to weigh in,” South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner said. “We’re comfortable where we are, if other conferences, other people want to change it, we need to weigh in and tell them what we feel, and if there is going to be a change, this is the date we would be most comfortable with.”