Commentary

Wait 'til next year

Think signing day is crazy? You haven't seen anything yet.

Updated: February 7, 2013, 5:17 PM ET
By Mitch Sherman | ESPN RecruitingNation

The craziness is over. Signing day has passed.

Take a deep breath -- and get ready to endure this all over again, only with likely more twists and drama.

You thought this year was bad, what with all the decommitments and recommitments, confusion and unusual stories?

[+] EnlargeReuben Foster
AP Photo/Butch DillThere was plenty of drama surrounding Reuben Foster's recruitment.

Just wait until the next year of football recruiting, when starting Aug. 1, no rules limit college coaches in how often they can call and text and communicate by private message with prospects.

Last month, the Division I Board of Directors passed Proposal 13-3, which removes restrictions on numerical limitations and modes of recruiting communication, including text messaging. Its deregulation, intended to allow the governing body to focus on meaningful issues, ushers us into a brave, new world of recruiting.

It promises to bring about chaos.

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer voiced his displeasure with the new rules on Wednesday.

"Bad stuff," Meyer said during his signing day news conference on Wednesday. "That's stuff that we're going to have to talk [about], the Big Ten Conference is going to meet and I'm putting together a personal letter to all the coaches in America that I disagree with most of it. I would imagine not many people who have recruited wrote those [rules]."

Now is the time, as a result, to revisit the idea of an early signing period.

You want to avoid many of the theatrics that follow coaching changes at the end of every season? Then let the kids sign in August. Let them prove they mean it when they say they made a decision for the school, not the coach.

This year, an early signing date would have allowed defensive end Chris Jones of Houston (Miss.) High School to avoid the spectacle of the past few weeks as the late-rising defensive end wavered between Ole Miss and Mississippi State.

Rated the No. 46 prospect in the ESPN 150, the 6-foot-6, 260-pounder, Jones told ESPN RecruitingNation on Sunday that the battle between Ole Miss and Mississippi State got so intense that he received death threats from fans. And he had to resort to misinforming the media where he was visiting so he wouldn't be bothered during his decision-making process.

Jones would have signed early with the Bulldogs. And he landed there anyway on Wednesday.

Linebacker Reuben Foster of Auburn (Ala.) High School, the No. 1 inside linebacker and No. 16 prospect in the ESPN 150, may have just signed with Auburn in the summer if given the chance before the Tigers' 3-9 season. Originally an Alabama commit, Foster flipped to Auburn in July. He then decommitted from Auburn following the coaching change and switched back to the Crimson Tide this week.

Defensive end Kylie Fitts of Redlands (Calif.) East Valley would have signed early with USC if allowed. In fact, he was all set to enroll early at the school until USC told him at the last minute he couldn't, prompting him to decommit from his dream school. He pledged to USC's archrival UCLA on Tuesday night.

Same goes for athlete Dontre Wilson of DeSoto (Texas) High School, a solid pledge to Oregon before Chip Kelly bolted for the NFL. Wilson, No. 55 in the ESPN 150, signed with Ohio State.

And if any of them weren't ready to sign early, well, no need to commit in the summer.

"Rather than speed up the process," Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said on Wednesday, "I wish we could slow it down."

I'm familiar with Nebraska's plight in recruiting, covering the Huskers for more than a decade. So I visited Lincoln on signing day to gather their perspective on the state of recruiting.

It wasn't pretty.

Pelini, entering his sixth year, is no fan of the impending deregulation. And his comments echo those of many colleagues, wary of the out-of-control pace to which recruiting may soon escalate with no limits in place over communication.

"First and foremost, it's going to affect the kids in high school," Pelini said. "They're going to be concentrating on things they shouldn't be concentrating on. That's academics. That's being the best football player they can be. That's developing as a young man."

The new rules serve as a disservice to all involved, Pelini said.

He said he'd like to see all parties engage in a discussion over how to regulate recruiting. That means the NCAA, college coaches, high school coaches and administrators. It would allow the people who make the rules, Pelini said, to gain an understanding of what coaches need to make the system work.

"Until that happens, it's not going to get fixed," Pelini said.

Nebraska gained and lost from the recruiting craziness this year.

Notably, safety Marcus McWilson of Youngstown (Ohio) Cardinal Mooney, Pelini's alma mater, defected late to Kentucky, and receiver Dominic Walker of Orlando (Fla.) Evans left the Nebraska class for Auburn.

[+] EnlargeKylie Fitts
Erik McKinney/ESPNUCLA recruit Kylie Fitts could have ultimately ended up at USC if there was an early signing period.

Meanwhile, receiver Tre'vell Dixon of Baldwin (La.) West Saint Mary committed to the Huskers three times, sandwiched between pledges to LSU and Arizona State.

"Let's face it," Pelini said. "Commitments don't mean a lot."

Pelini's not ready, though, to come out as an advocate of an early-signing period -- not until the NCAA allows a period in the spring or summer for official visits.

Even then, he would need more time to study the implications.

For sure, though, it would alleviate pressure on prospects who wanted it over in the summer. And shouldn't the decisions made be handled with their best interest in mind?

Nebraska recruiting coordinator Ross Els floated another idea: How about no signing date? As a recruit, when you're ready to sign, just do it. If not, don't commit.

As the father of three, Els said he's unsure how kids will handle the new rules, early signing date or not.

"I mean, my goodness, they have to be disciplined enough to turn off their phones and get their homework done," Els said. "It's going to be interesting. It really is."