Oversight committee looking into elimination of signing periods

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson has long been an advocate for a rather radical change to the process of signing recruits to letters of intent –eliminating signing periods and instead allowing prospects to sign at any point when they’ve decided they’re ready to end the recruiting process.

Johnson said at the ACC meetings in early May that he thought that the option was gaining in popularity . He may have known what Division I football oversight committee chairman Bob Bowlsby acknowledged in an interview with the AJC last week – that the committee is looking into it.

“I think a case can be made for that,” Bowlsby said. He called it a “large departure from where we’ve been in the past. Maybe it’s time for consideration of that. I think that there clearly are young people that want to get the process over with. They want to take a visit in the summer and maybe an official visit in the fall and be done with it long before the February signing date. Not everybody agrees with that, but it’s certainly one point of view.”

Johnson’s rationale for eliminating signing periods is that, beyond giving prospects (and coaches) the chance to be finished with the recruiting process and eliminate the need for “babysitting” prospects after they've committed, it would also introduce more transparency to the process of giving commitments and scholarship offers. If a prospect says he wants to attend a particular school but isn’t ready to sign on the spot, then it’s a far clearer indication of his mindset than a commitment, which are often broken at the occasion of a better offer. Likewise, if a coach indicates he's offering a scholarship but won’t give a prospect the chance to sign, then, the validity of the offer becomes more clear.

“You’ve heard the horror stories of people committed 10 times, and I think that’s not good for the schools, it’s not good for the kids,” Bowlsby said. “We need to figure out how that happens. I think there are some ways in which the student-athletes and their families can stop the recruiting process by making a commitment. Either that, or by actually signing. I think we need to bring as much honesty and transparency to the process as we possibly can.”

The committee is also looking at different options with an early signing period, a concept that has grown in popularity. There has been debate about when the period should be. In 2015, conference commissioners had the opportunity to vote on a proposal for a three-day window in December, but delayed the vote for a year, in part to give Bowlsby’s committee the chance to examine it and other issues. ACC coaches, among others, are in favor of an early signing period that would be in August.

Bowlsby brought up the possibility of a larger signing window as a compromise between the two concepts. He said that there have been advocates for a signing window open from early December into mid February.

The committee’s recommendations on signing periods and other matters related to FBS and FCS football will be given to the NCAA Council. It was created to streamline the governance of the sport.

The concept of eliminating signing periods has some support. Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez endorses it, as does former Nebraska coach Bo Pelini (now at Youngstown State).

Bowlsby said the committee is not at the point of having options to choose between. He also said that he doesn't have a preference for one particular idea at this point, either.

“I don’t know that it would be right to say we’re at the option stage yet, but I think we will be in the coming months,” he said.

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About the Author

Ken Sugiura
Ken Sugiura
Ken Sugiura covers Georgia Tech sports for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.