Tuesday, May 29, 2007
SEC coaches disagree on adding early signing period
DESTIN, Fla. -- The Southeastern Conference opened its
annual spring meeting Tuesday with talk about adding an early
signing period to college football.
There was plenty of debate.
Some say an early signing period could reduce the number of high
school prospects committing to one school, then de-committing and
signing with another. The idea drew support from Kentucky's Rich
Brooks and Vanderbilt's Bobby Johnson. But Florida's Urban Meyer
strongly disapproved, and others were somewhat skeptical.
"Right now, the idea of it is pretty good," Georgia coach Mark
Richt said. "But I'm afraid what might follow is more than we ask
College football currently has one signing period, which begins
in February. But with extra attention being paid to recruiting and
more and more students enrolling early, coaches have been forced to
recruit earlier than ever. Nowadays, it's common to get a
nonbinding verbal commitment before a prospect's senior year of
But that usually means months of phone calls and visits trying
to keep the kid committed, then usually several anxious hours on
signing day wondering if the extra -- and often expensive -- work
would pay off.
"It would be a cost-saving thing certainly," Tennessee coach
Phillip Fulmer said. "The last two or three weeks, at least,
there's a lot of baby-sitting going on, probably more than that.
You kind of got to be there because somebody else may be."
Meyer has been one of the more active coaches late in the
recruiting season, getting players to change their minds and sign
Not surprisingly, Meyer hated the idea of schools being able to
lock up recruits in early September or mid-December -- two of the
potential dates being tossed around.
"I'm not comfortable signing kids you don't know," Meyer said.
"I'd rather move later. I want to quit making mistakes. A mistake
in recruiting just devastates a program. The only way to minimize
the mistake-factor is to get to know someone.
"I think they should all come to camp. I think we should know
their families. I think they should meet my family. That's when you
usually get a good deal going. If you have an early signing period,
that's not going to happen."
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier agreed, saying he would
prefer to stick with the current model.
Although Fulmer acknowledged that an early signing period might
benefit some coaches, recruits and their families, he stopped short
of endorsing the idea.
He believes it would give programs in Texas, California and
Florida -- states that produce the most football talent -- an
advantage since they have more access to some of the best players
"I'm not sure it would benefit schools like Tennessee because
our recruiting base is not necessarily the best," he said. "On
the other hand, it might eliminate some wasted time for us. I want
to know all the ramifications. I'm kind of on the fence. I want to
see where we are with it."
Brooks and Johnson already knew where they stood.
"I have been in favor of an early signing period, and most of
my brethren in this conference are not," Brooks said. "Maybe they
figure they can come in and pick people from us lesser-known
schools. I'm not sure. It's worked well for basketball. I don't see
any reason it shouldn't work for football."
Some coaches said one concern would be signing someone early who
might not have taken the SAT or ACT and may not be able to qualify
for enrollment. But Johnson said that already happens with some
recruits. He said the real reason some coaches don't want the early
signing period is because "everybody thinks they can have a chance
to sway somebody."
"I think it would take a lot of pressure off of everybody,"
Johnson added. "If (a recruit) hasn't made up his mind, don't
sign. If he has, then sign. It's pretty logical to me."