A new measure, to be voted on in June, would create a three-day signing period in December after an athlete’s senior season. Video: azcentral sports
Chandler High wide receiver Gunner Romney enjoys being recruited. But there are times, he’ll admit, when the constant attention from college coaches becomes too much and all he wants to do is turn off his phone for a few hours.
“Some coaches are a little pushy,” said Romney, who has been offered by several Division I programs, including the University of Arizona. “They like you to call them every single day which can be frustrating.”
Imagine what it must be like in the days and weeks leading up to National Signing Day in February. Because verbal commitments are non-binding, college coaches will try to poach a kid who’s given his word to a program. The pressure to commit or de-commit, to stay or to go, can be overwhelming.
“Kids waver because college coaches bombard them,” said Chandler coach Shaun Aguano.
Vote coming in June on new rules
That will change if a measure approved the NCAA’s Division I council earlier this month is passed in June by the Collegiate Commissioners Association, which administers the National Letter of Intent program. The measure would create an early three-day signing period in December after an athlete’s senior season.
If a college and a student-athlete are truly committed to one another they can put it down in writing. No more phone calls from opposing coaches. No more text messages. No last-minute flips, either from the kid or the school.
What’s not to like?
“I think it’s a good thing,” said Scottsdale Saguaro coach Jason Mohns. “Kids that are solid commits can get it over with. Now a commitment doesn’t mean anything as far as other schools recruiting a kid. It only makes them ramp up how hard they go after that kid.”
Pros and cons of proposal
The proposal isn’t perfect. It doesn’t allow recruits to back out of their signing if the head coach is no longer at the school. Given most college coaching changes happen in December or January that could leave a lot of kids feeling like they’ve been betrayed. Ideally, the departure of the head coach – whether he leaves for another job or is fired – should trigger an out clause for the student-athlete.
That said, there’s a lot to like about the measure. For one thing, it will allow kids to make their official recruiting visits in the spring rather than during football season. No more red-eyes late Friday night in order to make it to the college campus in time for Saturday’s game.
“It’s better for the high school coach because he won’t have kids leaving and missing film on Saturday and it’s better for the kid because he and his family can spend more time at the university to get a feel of what they’re about,” Mohns said.
More importantly, an early signing period could result in more exposure for less heralded recruits. If four- and five-star athletes sign in December, colleges can turn their focus to kids who might have escaped their attention previously.
“There might be more opportunity for the tweeners,” Mohns said.
Then there’s the simple clarity a December signing period might provide. If a school says it wants a recruit but isn’t willing to sign him until February it’s a red flag. The recruit should look at other programs so he doesn’t run the risk of being left out in the cold at the last moment. That’s what happened to Phoenix North Canyon wide receiver John Okwoli a year ago. He received an offer from Boise State and was ready to sign only to have a Broncos coach tell him a week before LOI day that the “receiver spots are full.” Okwoli eventually signed with Wyoming.
“This will be good for the coaches and the kids. They can stop all the wavering,” Aguano said. “I almost wish they had made it in August.”
Romney isn’t sure he’ll take advantage of the early signing period, assuming the proposal passes. But he likes the fact he’ll at least have that option.
“I can definitely see how it would be a relief,” he said.
Let’s hope the collegiate commissioners see it the same way.
Reach Bordow at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/sBordow. He can be reached at 602-448-8716.