Signing day should be early

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The NCAA is currently discussing the possibility of opening an early signing date for college football. That means that high school players could sign scholarship papers with their chosen college at a date late in their junior year rather than waiting until February of their senior year before signing.

Fans know that high school basketball stars can now accept scholarship offers much earlier than football players. The main objection to the early signing date for football players is that a student’s academic progress has not yet been determined. If not so for football players, then why so for basketball players? So many high school football players now make early verbal commitments to a college before changing when the actual signing day comes.

The NCAA says that the early signing date question draws about a 50-50 response from college football coaches. My opinion falls with those supporting the early signing date.

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If it is good enough for basketball, it should be good enough for football. I am not naive enough to think an earlier signing date would relieve the pressure on high school football stars, and it will actually make the recruiting job harder on college coaches, but overall I think it is a good idea.

There should be no difference in a kid visiting a prospective college in his or her junior year than in the senior year.

Currently recruiting the so-called blue chip athlete is an intense procedure. That will never change, regardless of the date that scholarship papers can be signed. Allowing that athlete to make an earlier choice can free up his or her senior year from those pressures. The possibility of the athlete later regretting an early college choice always exists, but many of those kids even now sometimes have a change of mind. Many young players, when they become involved in August two-a-days, wonder why they even want to play college football. The game is so much faster and more intense than it was in high school.

In my youth, though I certainly did not go through the recruiting process, I knew many who did. Most of those players, though not all of them, honored whatever early commitment they might have made.

Not too many years have passed since colleges could sign as many players to scholarships as they could afford. Coaches often signed players simply to keep them away from their rivals. It was not unusual for a team to sign as many as 100 freshmen. Most of those would never see the field during a game, and most would give up football after a year or two. As scholarships were then for the full four years, some of those players would tough it out for the full four years and earn a degree though they never played for the school.

And, That’s Official

Al Graning writes a weekly column for The Democrat. He can be reached at