Football recruits may soon be allowed to sign with a school before National Signing Day.
The NCAA’s Division I Council announced Friday that it has approved an early signing period, among other proposals.
No proposals, however, will become official until the NCAA Division I Board of Directors meets April 26 for a final vote.
The early signing period is something that would shake things up quite a bit in college football. Instead of waiting until the first Wednesday in February for college football prospects to sign, they would be able to sign a national letter-of-intent in December.
A year ago, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, when asked for his thoughts on this topic, said it is something he is not in favor of.
“A lot can happen. When you have an early signing period, it speeds up a process that, in my opinion, I think it’s already rushed,” Smart said. “I’m not a big person who’s in favor of moving up the signing day or having an early signing period. But you can argue some positives. Like anything, there’s good and bad to both. But when the whole thing is considered in totality, I don’t think it’s going to be something good to the kids and good to the players. I don’t see it that way.”
The new NCAA legislation would go into effect Aug. 1 if ratified. Accompanying an early signing period would be a new rule allowing prospective student-athletes to take official visits at an earlier date. High school juniors would be able to take official visits beginning “April 1 of the junior year and ends the Sunday before the last Wednesday in June of that year.”
Another rule the Division I Council approved Friday is that FBS programs will not be able to hire people closely tied to prospective student-athletes for a “two-year period before and after the student’s anticipated and actual enrollment at the school.”
Smart, as the son of a high school football coach, has mixed feelings about this particular rule.
“Many guys that I respect are now being cut out of it,” Smart said. “(Supporters of the rule change will) argue they’re not being cut out, it’s only the ones who have prospects. But is that fair to cut out a guy because he has a prospect, to form an opportunity to develop his career to move on? I think it’s cutting a lifeline out of our program base. So where do we get our lifeline from? We have to go to the NFL now to get coaches? Where do you develop coaches from? They develop from high school up.”
At the same time, Smart understands, and is on the same page, as to the spirit of the proposal.
“But I certainly don’t like hiring a guy to get a player either,” Smart said. “It’s a fine line.”
The Division I Council also approved for FBS schools to hire a 10th assistant coach beginning Jan. 9, 2018.
Smart said he was told that the rule would not go into effect immediately because of the “chaos” it would cause. While the rule proposal has been in the works, Smart said he hasn’t communicated with anyone about a potential 10th coaching spot on Georgia’s staff.
“There were no promises made to anybody to come here and you’ll get the 10th assistant,” Smart said. “There will be considerations, and we’ll look for the best available guy for our staff.”
Other proposals the Division I Council approved include:
▪ FBS coaches only will be able to participate in camps and clinics for 10 days in June and July, with it being mandatory that camps “take place on a school’s campus or in facilities regularly used by the school for practice or competition.”
▪ Coaches employed at a camp are now allowed to have recruiting conversations with participants and “requires educational sessions at all camps and clinics detailing initial eligibility standards, gambling rules, agent rules and drug regulations.”
▪ FBS programs will be limited to signing 25 prospective and current student-athletes to financial-aid agreements and national letters-of-intent.
“This is a significant move forward for football recruiting,” said Bob Bowlsby, the Big 12 Conference commissioner who serves as the Football Oversight Committee chair. “The entire package of rule changes is friendly for students, their families and their coaches. We will continue to monitor the recruiting environment to make sure the rules work as intended, and we will suggest adjustments when necessary.”