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SEC opposes football early signing period

By Edgar Thompson Orlando Sentinel (MCT) • Dec 15, 2015 at 2:54 PM

DESTIN, Fla. — The SEC would like to the keep the college football recruiting calendar the way it is, but leaders in the nation’s top football conference realize not everyone agrees.

At its spring meeting earlier this month, the ACC proposed a football early signing period that would begin Aug. 1. Currently, football players can’t lock in their binding agreements with schools until February of their senior seasons.

To be prepared in case of a change, the SEC recommended an early signing day on the Monday after Thanksgiving, commissioner Mike Slive said Wednesday at the SEC’s spring meetings.

“We’re not predicting the future,” associate commissioner Greg Sankey said. “There’s an understanding there’s a mounting interest in an early signing day and there’s a need to identify a workable model that respects the current recruiting calendar.”

The SEC’s proposal would allow only high school prospects who are not making officials visits to sign with schools. The idea is to allow a recruit dead set on signing with a school to make his choice and end the recruiting process.

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel estimates as many as a dozen recruits in a class of 20 to 25 commitments could take advantage of the November signing opportunity.

“It kind of settles it down a little bit and you don’t have to babysit them,” Pinkel said. “That’s what this is for. I think you would get a significant number that would. We don’t want to mess with the recruiting calendar.

“I think it’s a really good proposal. If you want to make a change, that’s the one.”

Slive, one of the most powerful voices in college sports, said he wants to signing day to remain the first Wednesday in February.

The Conference Commissioners Association presides over the signing date and will meet in mid-June. Slive said he hopes an early signing period is not on the agenda.

“There are varying opinions as to what an early signing day should be, when it should be,” he said. “There is going to be a domino effect if you have an early signing date; it becomes the signing date. Then you have to change the recruiting calendar.”

The SEC’s 14 football coaches and athletic directors met Wednesday to discuss the proposal. A day earlier, coaches shared their opinions with each other on an early signing day.

Like Slive, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier opposes an early signing day.

“I firmly believe the season belongs to the team, your team, not the recruits,” Spurrier said. “If everybody is going to sign the first week in December, you’re going to be recruiting during the season.”

Arkansas’ Bret Bielema agrees with the ACC proposal adding an early signing period during the summer.

“Here’s the deal, the early signing period in my mind allows a kid, say, from Arkansas, who wanted to be a Hog his whole life, he can sign before his senior year and then nobody recruits him, nobody can touch him,” Bielema said.

Coaches in the SEC, ACC and in other leagues around the country can agree on one thing: the recruiting process has become increasingly unpredictable. More top players than ever change commitments and forces coaches to expend time and energy to determine who inevitably will sign with the school.

“If you’ve got guys that have signed and are with you no matter what, you don’t have to continue to worry, ‘Is this guy going to change his mind; is going to flip at the last second,’” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “Everyone would like some sanity in that regard.”

LSU coach Les Miles said the biggest winners would be the recruits who always wanted to play for LSU, Florida, Alabama or whatever school.

“You’re really only after the guys who really want to come to your school,” Miles said. “You’re not trying to convince them. It’s really the best of both worlds. ... It really is the best thing, it’s the easiest thing. It’s the most serving for the student-athlete.”

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