Facing the possibility of an early national signing day in college-football recruiting, SEC coaches went on record Wednesday about when they think it should occur.
The league’s 14 football coaches voted unanimously at the SEC spring meetings that if an early signing day is implemented at the national level as an alternative to the sport’s traditional February signings, it should happen on the first Monday following Thanksgiving each year.
The SEC coaches further agreed that early signings should be limited to that one day, meaning recruits who don’t sign then would wait until February. And under the SEC scenario, early signings would be limited to players who had taken no official visits to any college.
The coaches reported their stance to the league’s athletic directors, who supported it.
This doesn’t mean the SEC wants an early signing day for football. It doesn’t.
“We will continue to encourage our colleagues in (other conferences) to retain the current model,” SEC commissioner Mike Slive said. “We hope it won’t (change).”
But with momentum elsewhere seemingly moving toward an early signing day, the SEC felt it prudent to take a position on how one might work best.
“I think most of us were thinking there’s probably going to be one,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “And if there is, we need to say what we think makes the most sense.”
The SEC cannot unilaterally enact or block an early signing day. Ultimately, the decision will be made by all football-playing Division I leagues represented in the Collegiate Commissioners Association.
“My sense is it’s a close call,” Slive said.
The group meets in June, but Slive said he doesn’t know if the issue will be on the agenda then.
“I hope it’s not,” he said.
The ACC has suggested an early signing period that would begin Aug. 1. SEC coaches firmly oppose that timetable.
An early signing day would give high school players who are certain about their college choice an opportunity to seal the deal, allowing college coaches to then focus on undecided recruits.
The SEC coaches said their proposal was intended to craft a way that an early signing day could be held without altering the year-round recruiting calendar and without unduly interfering with coaches’ ability to focus on their teams during the season.
“Our biggest fear was making our regular season crazy with too much recruiting,” Richt said. “We want to coach our teams. But there was some merit to saying, ‘Hey, if guys really know where they want to go, let them sign.’
“In order to get an early signing date and not make your season crazy, we said, ‘Let’s make a stipulation that if you want to sign early, you don’t make an official visit.’ If a guy wants to take five visits, then sign in February. That’s no big deal. We’re not taking anything away from a kid.”
He said players who might benefit from an early signing day include those “who probably have known since they were 13 (years old) where they were going to go.”
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