Early signing period a hot topic

Javaris Brown concentrated on football during the fall. The Northeast senior now worries only about basketball season.

He is one of the hotly recruited football players who will sign college scholarships across America today.

Brown is also part of a growing trend of high school football players to pick their college well before National Signing Day. He committed to Virginia in the summer and hasn’t wavered once. He is expected to sign with the Cavaliers today.

But he would have also signed with Virginia in August or December had there been a chance.

"I wish I could sign right now," Brown said prior to the start of the football season. "I went up to Virginia and fell in love. If I know where I’m going, why should I wait?"

With college players seemingly committing earlier every year, the idea of an early signing period has picked up some steam.

It would provide those athletes who already know their college decision an opportunity to avoid the crush of coaches trying to sway them. Most of the other collegiate sports — baseball and basketball included — have two signing periods.

“I think there is a benefit to having an early signing period,” Baldwin head coach Jesse Hicks said, “especially when a kid knows where he wants to go. It would take away some stress. Kids get so frustrated they will change their phone number. I think coaches already know who they want to recruit before they are juniors, especially with the growth of the Internet.”

The Georgia Bulldogs have certainly reaped the rewards of that trend.

The Bulldogs have five commitments for the 2009 class, all in-state players who jumped on scholarship offers from a school that is expected to sign a small class next February. Of’s top 100 juniors in the nation, 13 are already committed, including the top player in the country, Santa Ana, Cal. quarterback Matt Barkley, who picked Southern Cal.

“When you are dealing with a massive amount of players, it’s harder to try and find who are the top guys (to rank them),” said Scott Kennedy,’s Director of Scouting. “But it’s not hard to pick guys who are going to commit to a team like Georgia as juniors. They standout pretty quick.”

The ACC and Big 12 coaches supported the idea of an early signing period at recent meetings. Head coaches from the SEC and Pac-10 voted against it.

“I’m afraid you’d spend an awful lot more time recruiting,” Georgia head coach Mark Richt said. “We’d like to pay attention to the guys we have.”

An argument against an early signing period would be what happens to athletes who sign early then go through a coaching change. Several Georgia Tech players who would likely have signed early de-committed after Chan Gailey was fired. Those players would have been in limbo, particularly if they didn’t fit into the new coach’s scheme.

“There’s really only one entity in the full process that is bound to a contract, and that is the student-athlete,” Kennedy said. “How many coaches lost their jobs from the coordinators to the position coaches to everybody? At the very worst what is going to cost (the coaches)? It’s going to cost them money. It’s going to cost an 18-year-old a year of his life. … Give the kid as much time as you can to make his decision.”

An early signing period would need to be approved by the Conference Commissioners Association, according to USA Today. And for now, the players will continue to have until at least the first Wednesday in February to make that decision.

Related stories from Macon Telegraph