Wednesday’s National Signing Day likely marked the end of an era in football recruiting.
The Collegiate Commissioners Association — a panel of representatives from all 32 Division I conferences — will decide this summer whether to adopt an early signing period.
Now recruits — even early enrollees who move to campus and start classes in January — have to wait until the first Wednesday in February to officially sign with a school. An early signing period would give recruits the option to sign a National Letter of Intent in December.
“[Coaches] have been asking for it for years,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said Wednesday after announcing his 2015 signees.
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Susan Peal, who manages the NCAA’s National Letter of Intent program, said there have been discussions about an early signing day for about seven years. But things officially went in motion in October, when a group organized by the commissioners recommended an early signing period and encouraged the issue to be discussed during the spring conference meetings, Peal said. The commissioners association will vote when it convenes in June.
“Hearing feedback from the coaches, they wanted to seriously look at an early signing period and what that would look like,” Peal said.
If approved, 2016 recruits would be able to sign in mid-December, just before the annual month-long recruiting dead period over the holidays. Peal said that’s the earliest a signing date could be moved without interfering with the rest of the recruiting schedule. The traditional National Signing Day in February would remain intact.
To Patterson, January is fine for mining last-minute additions to a recruiting class, but he’d rather lock up a majority of his class when he can and focus on late commitments, if necessary.
Of the 21 recruits TCU signed Wednesday, only two — Kavontae Turpin and Arico Evans — committed to the Horned Frogs in January. Evans flipped from Kansas on Sunday. Twelve signees committed before the 2014 season.
“Most of our evaluations and everything are done in the summer and the camps, anyway,” Patterson said. “Really, 80 percent is all set [by January]. It’s the 20 percent — the 10 percent on each end. A possible guy that might want to flip or a guy that you might flip. And that’s where all the craziness happens.”
At the high school level, Fort Worth All Saints coach Aaron Beck wouldn’t mind seeing an early signing date. If anything, it might reduce the hectic last two weeks of January, when college coaches flock to high schools.
“I think it will be well-embraced,” Beck said last week. “This morning, when I drove in, Alabama was here. Michigan has been here today. The University of Houston has been here today, and it’s only 11:20. During the time when those guys get out on the road, it’s pretty hectic. We look at it as a positive for our kids, but I almost feel for the college coaches.”
Beck pointed out another advantage of signing in December: You’ll guarantee your spot sooner. A recruit isn’t bound to a commitment, but neither is the school. Just this week, Louisville coach Bobby Petrino drew headlines for pulling a scholarship offer from a player who had committed last summer.
Said Mansfield coach Jeff Hulme, “I think [an early signing date] would definitely give them some reassurance and some confidence in that once you sign on the dotted line, you’re there.”
Situations vary, though, and waiting can sometimes benefit a recruit.
Aledo cornerback Johnathan Durham committed to Texas State last summer and until last week, was still planning to sign with the Bobcats. But Durham, who earned first-team all-state honors as a senior, knew he might have a chance at playing for a Big 12 school. Northwestern and Purdue offered but weren’t the right fit. He ended up signing with Kansas State after the Wildcats offered him a scholarship last week.
Even as a solid commitment to Texas State, Durham doesn’t think he’d have signed early.
“You never know what could come up at the end,” he said.
Mansfield athletic director Debbie Weems hopes an early signing date doesn’t add to the pressure of recruiting. If a recruit isn’t ready to sign in December — regardless if he’s committed — then he shouldn’t, she said. But the benefit of locking up a scholarship sooner is enticing to Weems, too.
“The sooner, the better, for me,” Weems said. “As long as they don’t put any pressure on them. We understand that [recruiting] is a huge piece of this whole puzzle, but the negative side of it is the stress and pressure of it.”
Ryan Osborne, 817-390-7760