New football early signing period has positives, negatives

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For the first time this year, high school seniors can sign football national letters of intent with colleges for a three-day period beginning Wednesday.

As the recruiting process has evolved over the last 20 years, the change has been discussed frequently, but not enacted until this year.

The change has both its good and bad.

Start with the positives:

Finish the process. High school football players are making their college coaches earlier and earlier (and in turn, colleges are making scholarships to players earlier and earlier). The earlier signing date allows a closure to the recruiting process a month and a half earlier for both the student-athlete and the university.

Good for the little guy. Schools outside of the Power 5 conferences would often go through two stages of recruiting between now and February – getting the players to finish out their signing class, while keeping the best of the commitments from being poached by larger programs. Now, with a signature in place in December, the opportunity to poach goes away.

Options. Players can sign in December, or continue to let the process play out and wait until the February signing period. Several top prospects in the New Orleans area, including Hahnville’s Anthony “Pooka” Williams and De La Salle’s Julien Gums, will not sign on Wednesday.

Now the negatives:

Timing stinks … on all fronts. The reason these three days were picked is it coincides with the window for junior college transfers to sign. Short of moving the early period into the summer, there is really not a good time during the fall semester.

Late December means the high school season has just ended (in Texas, the state finals are this weekend, so it’s not even over). It also means that many high schools will already be dismissed for the holiday break on Wednesday.

While the signing is an important event for the college and the student-athlete, it’s also important for his teammates and fellow students. Early indications in the New Orleans area are that some schools will still have a ceremony in February, even if a player signs this week.

Also consider that if a player is trying to finalize his decision this week, it often comes around the time of mid-term exams. From the college end, many staffs are also going through bowl preparation.

Lack of attention? To recruiting fans, the first Wednesday in February is almost like a national holiday. A few players make their final decisions and can determine if your school’s recruiting haul moves up or down the charts.

While it remains to be seen how this week will be viewed down the road, it’s clear it has to deal with a lot of competition on the calendar, not the least of which is the holiday season.

Late offers. When a late de-commitment happens or a current player decides to transfer, it opens up a scholarship. There have been times that scholarship offers have come on or around the February signing day, like to current LSU and former Jesuit tight end Foster Moreau. Of course, the national letter of intent is a binding document, so for anyone who signs in December, those offers won’t come.

The change in itself indicates some form of progress. Will we see more changes to the recruiting calendar down the road? Let’s see how this year plays out.

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Lenny Vangilder

Lenny Vangilder

Sales/Content/Production

Lenny was involved in college athletics starting in the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…

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