Early Signing Date Approved – Pluses and minuses … and its effect on CU Recruiting


The NCAA’s Division I Council on Friday voted in favor of an early signing period, which could dramatically alter the college football recruiting landscape in the future.

There has been little consensus over the years about an early signing period, so the fact that this was approved by the NCAA Division I Council is significant. The intent, at least on paper, is to relieve pressure on recruits throughout the recruiting process while lessening third-party influence.

Several high profile coaches were opposed, but for different (selfish?) reasons.

Ohio State’s Urban Meyer was an outspoken critic. “The reason is there are so many de-commitments”, said Meyer last September. “Let’s make a 17-year old sign a legal document. That’s not very smart … You’re going to see more transfers, more mistakes made than ever in recruiting … I want to watch them play there senior year”.

Translation … Ohio State, as with other elite schools, could lose a recruiting advantage with the new rules. The Buckeyes can often “flip” a prized recruit in the two month period between the end of the high school season and Signing Day on the first Wednesday in February.

The scenario which hurts Ohio State (and schools like USC and Oregon in the Pac-12): An above-average player “settles” for a scholarship offer from a lesser school than the Buckeyes. The player then goes on to have a great senior season. Under the current system, Meyer has extra time to convince that player to de-commit and sign with Ohio State. If a commitment is signed in December, however, Meyer and the Buckeyes will lose this advantage of cherry-picking prized recruits from other schools.

Stanford’s David Shaw went even further several years ago, calling the proposed changes “catastrophic”. The issue for the Cardinal is one of academics. Stanford has a higher admission bar than many schools. The Cardinal could face a situation in which a talented, smart player wants to sign early and take advantage of strong academics and be a part of the program, but could not allow them to sign because they are still far from clearing admissions. Those players, not willing to wait around, could lock up spots at other schools and Stanford’s recruiting would take a hit.

One other potential drawback to the new rule is the issue of coaching changes.

Most coaching changes occur in December and January. It might not come as a surprise to a given recruit if the coach of a team recruiting him gets fired after a 1-11 season, but what if the coach goes 11-1 and gets hired in January by another, higher-profile school … or even the NFL?

While it is true that a player is supposed to pick a school, not a coach, it is also true that many – if not most – high school seniors are looking at the coaching staff they are committing to with as much (if not more) scrutiny than the merits of the given school.

There may need to be some review of this new rule, at least when it comes to a coach leaving after a player commits to a program during the December signing period.

Another factor which will need to be evaluated over time is the impact of players leaving the program, either by transfer or to the NFL. Currently, players don’t have to declare their intentions as to the NFL draft until mid-January. If a team signs most of its Recruiting Class in December, then loses significant talent at a given position in January, they will be left scrambling to find suitable replacements, either in the traditional February Signing Day, or in the graduate transfer market in May.


The effect on Colorado … 

CU’s Mike MacIntyre has been a long-standing proponent of the early Signing period. When asked about it in 2015, MacIntyre told ESPN:

“If you just look at kids who commit early, if they want to sign early and get it over with, you should let them. If you look at all the stuff at the end … kids getting coerced at the end. I like the early signing day. My personal thing is it should be kind of like basketball is — before their senior season starts. The problem is you would have to change the [recruiting] calendar a lot. To me, that’s the best way to do it. December is good, but I think it should be earlier”.

This past Signing Day, MacIntyre was still very much in favor. “Everything has sped up with the access of Hudl and video and all the other things you’re able to do”, MacIntyre told CUBuffs.com in February. “Kids used to, back in the Stone Age when I played and I guess ten years ago, kids would take an official visit . . . now the first official visit is the unofficial visit. So it’s totally spread out.

“If you flipped the calendar a little bit and let them have some more official visits earlier somehow, I think it would be better. Any way we could move (a signing day) up some, I’m for it.”

When the passage of the new rules were announced, MacIntyre did not change his position.

MacIntyre told CUBuffs.com that the December date will benefit both the student-athlete and the institution.

“The benefit it adds for the student-athlete that we’re recruiting is that they’ll be able to make a decision and make it final that much sooner,” Macintyre said. “Their holidays and all the other things going on in that period of time then won’t be interrupted with schools trying to flip them. All that pressure will be gone. They’ll have made their decision and can begin planning ahead that much sooner.”

As for the programs, MacIntyre said it will allow coaching staffs to be more precise in recruiting specific positions.

“Let’s say we’re signing 20 guys — we know at that date what we have at every position,” MacIntyre said. “We have so many receivers, so many running backs, so many defensive backs. Then we’re able to say, ‘OK, we need one more receiver and one more D-lineman.’ That allows us to still go look and find them in that time going into February.”

The new Signing Date will be beneficial for the Buffs in other subtle ways:

— Northern teams, like Colorado, could benefit, since in conjunction with the new date, the NCAA includes a rule that prospects will be allowed to take official visits (paid for by the school, and accompanied by a parent or high school coach) in April through June. This allows schools in cold climates to show a different, warmer side to top recruits.

— The ability of CU coaches to evaluate talent will no longer work against them. Mike MacIntyre and Co. have proven to be good at finding the “under the radar” recruit, offering a player who has few – if any – other Power-Five conference scholarship offers. Before, other schools would ride CU’s coat tails, allowing the Buffs to identify these prospects, then try and steal them before Signing Day.

“People trust our evaluations now – they know we’re evaluating well and they also know the kids we’re recruiting will be (academically) eligible”, said MacIntyre. “There’s a big key to that; if Colorado’s recruiting them they have to be eligible because (CU) has high credentials. That’s a pretty good target to go at.

“And the other thing is, most of our kids are from out of state, so (schools) that are near them they think they’re closer and think they have a chance (to poach a commit).”

There were a number of other rules passed by NCAA Division I Council on Friday, including the addition of a 10th assistant coach, the limiting of recruiting Classes to 25 members, and the moving up of official visit dates.

Those rules, however, will not receive as much attention – or scrutiny – as the inclusion of an early Signing date.

The move appears to help schools like Colorado.

Mike MacIntyre is in favor.

Which is good enough for me …


One Reply to “Early Signing: Effect on CU”

  1. just like the election process money has corrupted the college football and the recruiting process. Urban Meyer et al can shoved it. College football’s last exciting aspect is when one of the cinderella teams rises up to beat people like Ohio State.
    I will tune into most PAC 12 games cause it obviously affects the Buffs but when Ohio State plays Michigan/Notre Dame(etc) I will be enjoying the great outdoors

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